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Neale Bacon
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To me, magic is not dying but, as others have said, it is in transition.

All performance fields change with time...music, theatre etc. so why not magic?

I understand the sentiment about magic being a babysitting service because on occasion I have felt that too, but for the most part I don't and I will tell you why.

I specialize in kids and families because when I see that wonder in the eyes of a child, or the child-like wonder in the eyes of an older person, it keeps the magic in me alive and makes me want to be better.

Don't worry that you can't compete with TV. Music sounds better in a studio than on tour, but bands still do it.

Many people tell me they don't watch magic on TV because they suspect camera tricks, but when I can do a trick right before their eyes, it has a completely different effect.

Hang in there and take a break if you think you need one. I once took 6 months off magic to completely revamp my show and refocus my energies and I love it more than ever now.

Keep the magic alive! Smile
Neale Bacon and his Crazy Critters
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daffydoug
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Sounds like you've come to a watershed time in your life where you're going to find out whether magic is REALLY in your heart or not. Time tests all things. I went through this with many of my other interests, such as guitar playing, fo instance. I killed myself for years and years on that one, busting my knuckles trying to play like Chet Atkins. And I became pretty darned good. But then it came to a point where I reached the point of diminishing return. I reached the end of my natural talent, and waited for the second wind to come. I was burned out. The second wind never has come. Perhaps someday, but you can only give your heart to one thing at a time. You will see if that second wind comes for you. If not, perhaps it was never "meant to be." Only you can search your own soul. Only you know where your your joy comes from. If you get no joy from your magic, then it is for all practical intents and purposes dead in you, for now that is. But, a revivescence may yet touch the ember and once again fan them into a flame. Just keep an open mind to what the Teacher is trying to show you. When the student is ready, then the teacher...(you know the rest.)
The difficult must become easy, the easy beautiful and the beautiful magical.
Bob Sanders
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Relating to the discussion about changes, real and imagined, in the field of magical entertainment. To me the outcome is very predictable.

My observation is that good audiences control the changes in classes of successful entertainment, not the new acts. Successful talent buyers are professionals holding the good audiences. New acts are not really what successful talent buyers seek. Therefore, new acts have great difficulty getting before the good audiences. The audiences they do play are very short term. Consequently, they will have to change audiences to make it in the long run. Odds are they will not and many cannot.

Before I considered myself a working magician, I was a booking agent. Among other artists, I booked magicians. I also booked recording artists, comedians, circus acts, hypnotists/mental acts, exhibits, speakers, bands, and musicians. For the agency, the most money came from contracts on recording artists, bands, musicians and comedians, in that order. The most loyal buyers bought circus acts, exhibits, bands, musicians, and magic acts in that order. Most new and short-lived buyers bought recording artists, comedians, bands, musicians and hypnotists/mental acts in that order. You can see that consumption was very different among the buyers.

Agencies run on commissions. Commissions are determined by dollar value of the contracts. Dollar value of the contracts relates to price times frequency. An agency prefers an act getting $500 a show for ten shows ($5000 total) to one getting $1500 a show for two shows ($3000 total). This agency represented about 700 acts. So frankly, we did not get very concerned about which ones a buyer wanted as long as the dates were available. We were very concerned about the demand for a class of entertainment. Staying on top of the class of entertainment meant have the right acts to offer the better buyers. Bluntly put, we would much rather lose an artist than a buyer. We could always get any particular artist through his new agent. (Sometimes we even helped artists get a new agent.)

What do we really think we know about classes of entertainment? New act is a loaded term. It can mean a new artist. It can mean a repackaging of an old artist. It can mean an unknown old act we cannot get booked. For my purposes, new artist is the only one of these that qualifies as a new act. The market for new acts is fair. Freshness counts for something but it mostly means good entertainment for our customers could come cheaply. There are some bargains to be had in the short run. Being a new act in the long run means they never graduated.

In the long run, mediocre old acts do much better than even good new acts. They make more money and are easier to book. They are a known commodity within the budget and range of acceptable options for the buyer. Successful talent buyers know who they are entertaining very well. Rarely will a successful talent buyer gamble on a new act. Successful talent buyers ultimately buy the most talent. They also buy the top of line.

Breaking in as a new act is extremely difficult. The market for new acts is a very unstable market. The talent buyers are frequently inexperienced, underfinanced, and underqualified to succeed with even the best of acts. Managers for the best of acts avoid them. So the usual condition of that market is that the new act and the new act talent buyers are the blind leading the blind. Each is hoping that the other has more marketing success than the other does.

Good audiences aren’t that dumb. The best news is that not all audiences are good audiences. Good audiences pay their way and come back for more. The others may do one but not both of these. It is possible for a new act to get started with an audience that is not described as a good audience. The problem is that it is very short run. If they cannot change audiences within a year, odds are they are stuck without good audiences from then on. They will always have to think of themselves as a new act. That will work to keep them isolated from successful talent buyers. Successful talent buyers tend to control the good audiences. Therefore, changes in the classes of entertainment in demand, changes very slowly. To say it really isn’t sought is closer to the truth than artists like to admit. Successful talent buyers are usually looking for more of the same to replace another successful choice. Artists tend to think being different will be key. Rarely is that true in the market with the good audiences. The other audiences have no investment and are very unstable. Developing that market is not usually a practical economic choice. There are simply too many other good opportunities out there for those with the experience, financial backing and qualifications to hold a good audience.

Bob Sanders
Magic By Sander
Bob Sanders

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JamesinLA
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The thing that most struck me about this was the statement that "magic was meaningless." If your routines feel that way, that is probably because they do lack meaning. Take that as a challedge. You should create/write routines that are full of meaning. Making a coin jump from one hand to another is meaningless. But if your life depended on it... if you opened your hand and if the coin wasn't there you were going to die... now you've got drama/conflict/theater... MEANING.
I strive to have meaning, whether comedic or dramatic, in all my routines.

Jim
Oh, my friend we're older but no wiser, for in our hearts the dreams are still the same...
rcad
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Being relatively new in the magic hobby but an old timer as far as working in the arts related business, I may offer a new perspective on this.

There are two fundamental angles to consider in this problem: the performer and the audience.

Without going into the reasons why it is so (I could write a whole book on this topic... planning to in fact), let's just say that our whole society is in transition so of course, it will affect all art forms. Many factors play against artists nowadays. First and foremost, our audiences are geting lazy, at least at first glance.

As a writer and audience member, I wish I would have known the golden age of radio before television appeared in our lives. Back then, listeners had to use their imagination to get involved in a story. Back then, people were less educated but had more culture. Back then, they still had a sense of wonder. Nowadays, writers have to write scripts for TV and film that a 12 years old could understand. And let's not talk about political debates... Political discourses are written so that a 6 year old could understand it. This is not an opinion, this is how we are taught to write at University when in communications studies, so I should know.

The recent popularity of the so called "reality shows" (which in no way truly reflect "reality"), tells me that we are very close to reach the bottom of the barrel (which is a good thing since from there, there is only one way to go and that is upwards). Art and meaning are being evacuated from popular entertainment, whether it is on television or in music. Everything looks and sounds the same because this is what the public wants. Other art forms requiring more "work" from the audiences are less affected by this trend (novels for example) but they in turn suffer from a lack of popularity; people simply read less novels than they used to.

I said that audiences were getting lazy "at first glance"... I think the true reason for this is the lack of meaning in our lives in general. It is a very uncomfortable era to live in for a lot of people and it explains the popularity of reality shows. Looking at how others are handling life may either reassure or give us an answer to questions we are unknowingly asking ourselves. Rational thinking and emotional needs are in conflict.

When it comes to magic, here is what happens within a lot of people: they feel the need to believe, even if for just a moment, that there is more to life than what they see everyday. Yet, at the same time, their life is so full of uncertainties that they cannot let a simple magic show add to them so there is kind of a cancelling effect there. Moreover, in Occident, rationality is highly looked upon whereas credulity is a sign of stupidity. Thus we have been trained all our lives to question everything. That's why a lot of people "want" to see magic and at the same time cannot simply sit, relax and enjoy it.

There is also another another cultural trend working against us. Most people feel that with a little spare time, they can do or be anything they wish. I've seen people who, upon hearing I was a published and award winning writer, claimed that they too would write a book or something if they had the time... Remember, anyone can do anything... And that applies to the arts more than anything else because it seems, at first glance, to be fun and easy. "I know how to write so I could be a writer" or "If someone told me the trick, I could be a magician too." Well, it is fun but certainly not easy and when you are serious about your art, you discover that it gets harder the better you get... But most people do not take the time nor have the talent, yes, I dare say it, the talent to become an artist.

All that makes our audience blasé before we have even started our performance. Does that make magic meaningless? No, but we have to work a lot harder than we used to in order to achieve our goal: entertain. In a sense, artists have an even more important role now then they had a few decades ago. Through art, we may help others find a meaning in their life. Not by what we say or show them but simply by taking their hands and leading them to a place deep within themselves where they can reunite with their true nature. I'm sure Shrink would agree with me...

Now as far as performers are concerned, we must make a few choices and to make them, questions must be answered, as others suggested. Why do you (or did you) like performing magic? As far as I'm concerned, I have always been a storyteller and love to make people see all those wonderful things "I" see in my mind theater. It also provides me another way to channel my creativity. This simple process makes me happy. I also find it gives me something that helps me to deal with certain social gatherings that I dislike. I hate cocktail parties, office parties and the likes. Preparing a little magic show for those events has given me something to look forward to them. This is the only way I'm good at dealing with groups: treating them as a public. It has always been like that. Magic just gives me additional tools to do it. What is your relationship with your audience? How do you perceive them? What does it bring you?

As far as new tricks coming out every week, so what? Not everybody shares my point of view on this in the artistic community but I firmly believe that an artist should first master the classics of his trade before trying to revolutionize it. Again, as others said, concentrate on the basics and do it for yourself. I'm getting a Cups and Balls kit for Christmas and I'm all excited! Not because the effect is so attractive to me but because I know I will be practicing moves that have been around for thousands of years. I am proud to keep this legacy alive. It is difficult to explain but I'm sure many of you know what I'm talking about.

Monte, experience tells me that you either were excited about magic for unrealistic reasons (ex: "They will all love me!"), you've only scratched the surface of your art and personal potential and cannot see beyond that right now, or you liked the "idea" of doing magic more than the actual work involved. Any answer is fine. But if you still think that magic could be something else than what you have seen so far, remember that this is the first step into another world where everything is possible... You have been advised to try some bizare magick or mentalism and maybe that's the way for you to go. But in any case, you need to reflect on basic questions, find out what you really like (liked) about magic and start fresh for yourself. In the end, whatever we do should be a step towards happiness, otherwise this is how life really becomes meaningless...

Whew! Hope I haven't bored you all! I want to take this opportunity to wish you all and your loved ones a merry Christmas!

Richard Smile
"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious." Albert Einstein
Michael Kamen
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The question of meaning is inherent in this thread. Hold onto your magic stuff if possible Monte; one day you may be glad you did. I kind of got out of magic after an intense 11 year jaunt, in favor of music (classical guitar), an art I had begun a few years after magic (later went on to study engineering but that is another story). One of the things that appealed to me about music was its very lack of intrinsic meaning. That is to say, listening to a piece of music and ignoring any attached meanings (lyrics, commentary, etc.), it has no meaning at all. It is just evocative sound. Its very lack of apparent meaning is what had profound beauty for me. Whereas in magic, as soon as one opens one's mouth along comes the [title of P&T's recent T.V. specials]. Even humor rarely comes free of the baggage of meaning. Magic, as other arts, is readily exploited as a medium for meaning of one kind or another.

Many magicians specialize in trade shows and there meaning is all about selling products for your patron. Meaning is provided for you and your skill must be to pull in a crowd and smoothly transition their attention from your eye popping miracles to an interest in your sponsor's product; you are now in the field of commercial advertising, but hey, ya gotta eat. Then you have gospel magic. That gives pre-ordained meaning if ever anything could, provided the message is one you own and are motivated to propagate. If you are polically inclined and want to be a Lenny Bruce (or lesser god) you could make a lot of your magic skills toward political meaning or satire. So whether religious gospel, political gospel, or some other philosophical notion or moral these all seem to be ulterior motives, tricks to sell *meaning,* object lessons, product, whatever, rather than the magic itself.

I came back to magic because it is in my blood, and in doing so I have returned to the attempt to solve this problem and until I do I practice quietly and have no intention of performing in anything but a technical way for other magicians. I remain as averse to the infusion of meaning into beauty as ever, and this is of course a personal issue. It is not magic that sucks, it is I who suck since I have not yet found a solution to this dilemma. Meanwhile, Monte seems to be wishing to attach meaning to the magic -- something that to me seems all too easy although not at all desirable. Or perhaps he is just reacting to the magic marketplace whose meaning is of course purely commercial and uses magic in much the same was as any other enterprise who hires a magician to hawk its wares. If Monte's interest in magic is to endure, I predict he will either find a meaning for which in his case magic provides an effective medium, or he will see beyond meaning, beyond the day to day hype of all the marketplaces, and find beauty in the magic itself.
Michael Kamen
Bob Sanders
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Michael is right. Even if you take a break from magic, music, painting, or fishing if it is in your blood, you will be back. Do not trash your "stuff" because you will want it back. We can become a more mature whatever we are. But we tend to still be a whatever we are. Magic is just the "whatever we are" for the luckiest ones.

Bob
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Chugtai
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I will take my magic to my grave!
Now let's celebrate with some Champagne and a dancing Hamburger... Smile Smile
That Dumpster turned out to be quite the none-bag place to blaze campbell...
JamesinLA
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Quote:
On 2003-12-24 17:51, Michael Kamen wrote:
The question of meaning is inherent in this thread.

One of the things that appealed to me about music was its very lack of intrinsic meaning. That is to say, listening to a piece of music and ignoring any attached meanings (lyrics, commentary, etc.), it has no meaning at all. It is just evocative sound. Its very lack of apparent meaning is what had profound beauty for me.

If Monte's interest in magic is to endure, I predict he will either find a meaning for which in his case magic provides an effective medium, or he will see beyond meaning, beyond the day to day hype of all the marketplaces, and find beauty in the magic itself.



Michael,
I think your last quote is right on the money re: Monte's choices. The rest of your post raises a great issue/topic. namely "meaning" in music. Someone once said, "All the other arts aspire to the condition of music." I strongly believe that. In his Harvard Norton lectures, Lenoard Bernstein addressed this very topic of meaning in music. The 18th century saw the rise of what was called "program music," where classical and romantic period composers would attach/suggest an extra-musical "meaning" to their compositions through the use of titles. This started with Beethoven's Pastoral symphony, where we hear a thunderstorm being recreated. This is all in the "ear of the beholder" ultimately of course. The music must still work just as music as well. Ultimately, Bernstein pointed out that the real "meaning" of music is the music itself. Music has inherent meaning. Music is meaningful, I would argue, because music equals emotion. Just play a couple chords and you will likely have an emotional response. (I play piano by the way.)

Jim
Oh, my friend we're older but no wiser, for in our hearts the dreams are still the same...
Stuart Hooper
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Hey Jim, I also am a pianist and was going to reply to Michael here. Remember Michael that Music has moved men to perform great and terrible deeds for thousands of years! We have made love, and war, all inspired by brillant pieces of music. Music that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck, music that makes want to weep with tears. I've actually never heard anyone say the music lacks meaning! But I suppose the strange quality of music is that to many people in the world, music just sounds like a bunch of noise. But if you cannot hear it, friend, than let me vouch for you...music has TONS of "intristic meaning," perhaps, more so than any other art.
Smile
JamesinLA
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Mithrandir,
Great point! Regarding music's power to move men/women to perform great deeds, Sir Kenneth Clarke said that the French National Anthem, the Marseillaise, was responsible for the success of the French Revolution (to the extent that it was successful) because it so inspired the people.
Happy holidays!
Jim
Oh, my friend we're older but no wiser, for in our hearts the dreams are still the same...
Michael Kamen
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Quote:
On 2003-12-25 07:39, JamesinLA wrote:. . .Ultimately, Bernstein pointed out that the real "meaning" of music is the music itself. Music has inherent meaning. Music is meaningful, I would argue, because music equals emotion. Just play a couple chords and you will likely have an emotional response. . .


No disagreement here. The dictionary gives several definitions for "meaning," some rather vague and others more concrete. The semantics are bound to be ambiguous.
Michael Kamen
Monte
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Thanks to all my fellow magicians who have responded to my questions and thoughts.

Firedice 27 speaking his mind and telling it like it is. Maybe I might take your advice. Thanks for the movtivation.

And Pyro_Magic, thanks for having the same feelings.

I would just like to clear a few things up. I have been a magician for 7 years and have done countless amounts of shows. I am young, only 18. I still enjoy performing and listening to my past clients as the call back telling my that I am the only magician they want for their party. It is not a pride factor, I just feel that I have touched their lives in some way. MY character is that of a gambler and my magic has a strong gambling theme behind giving what I believe is meaning to my magic. The problem I have is that most of the time it take about 5-10 minutes into my show before the audiences starts to realize they are supposed to sit back relax and enjoy instead of breathing down my neck trying to firgure out the trick. I strongly oppose the puzzle mentality. My presentions have none of that. This is why magic is so boring to me. For many audiences it is a mere puzzle to be solved and it is not viewed as an art. Some magician's acts are so bad and have no meaning or entertainment value in them. This puzzle stuff is so sad. So saddening that it makes me think if magic is viewed not as an art but just a puzzle. Maybe it is. Maybe just maybe it is one big puzzle to solve. What do you think?
Monte, as in the 3 cards.
JamesinLA
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Monte,
I share your feelings about the "puzzle" part of magic. I'm going to roll this around in my head and see what I come up with. There should be a way to disarm your audience right away into not caring about this aspect of your performance. Gazzo does it by exposing a trick in a comical way (his wonderful floating card routine and his great ball vanishes in his cups and balls routine) and then smoking them big time right afterward.

Jim
Oh, my friend we're older but no wiser, for in our hearts the dreams are still the same...
Michael Kamen
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Monte,

I am sure you have seen the "Puzzle Curse" thread on this board -- if not, have a read. Clearly this is a common issue but seems usually limited to one or two spectators who have a particular problem you have to handle. I'll begin with the caveat that I do not know the style or character you adopt other than your description of "gambler." This invokes a couple of thoughts for me that I offer to you for what it may be worth. This character may be making your task a bit hard. Let's say you are scripting your act around cheating methods and bringing magic to bear in some way. Once you identify in that way you are going to invite an extra level of scrutiny as people will naturally go into "cheating-alert mode." It's only natural, so you would have to build the necessary compensations into your performance (awaiting Jim's thoughts on this). Secondly, and I hope you do not mind this suggestion, many spectators may be a bit put off by an 18 year old doing a gambling demonstration, period. After all you are barely legal age to even enter a casino let alone show others what a skilled operator you are. This would very likely invoke resistance in your audience that you experience as lack of willingness to enjoy the magic. I do not doubt you are very good, but you have chosen a character that might take several more years for you to grow into properly. By taking this into consideration you may be able to modify your presentation and deploy your considerable skill through a character that is slightly less threatening to your audiences in the meantime.

Best,
Michael
Michael Kamen
Stuart Hooper
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I disagree about being 18 and doing a gambling act, **** I waltzed into a casino last week (I'm 17) with my fifteen year old girlfriend on my arm (of course, she doesn't LOOK 15, lol) and we had no problems! Then again that wasn't Las Vegas.... But the point is even when we can't go in casinos most young people have been to camps or something where they have gambling night, and know about poker, blackjack, etc. So I think an eighteen year old doing gambling tricks is fine.

However, Monte himself is saying that people are treating his tricks as a puzzle! I think gambling tricks tend to be viewed in this way more often than others. So instead of cheating at cards, Monte, try some more "magical" tricks. (Don't flame me here please; I like gambling tricks, but they do tend to be viewed in this way.)

Smile
pablovaldes
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I agree with Michael, there are allways spectators that believe that the purpose of magic is to fool them rather than entertain them. However, with a gambler character you are practically anouncing you are a fooler if that is a word.

If people do not understant that your intention is to amaze them there is something wrong with your performance. If you are losing the meaning of doing magic there is a problem with you, magic has an evolution, right; but also, magic has always been the same, the art to amaze, to rediscover our capacity of surprise, listen to your heart and try to believe it: wonderful things do happen.
Wonderful things do happen
Magic is so relative, that we all think we know what it is
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MagicalArtist
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Very relevant to this discussion is the excellent essay by Jamy Ian Swiss called "Why Magic Sucks."

http://www.jamyianswiss.com/fm/works/whymagicsucks.html
Jonathan Townsend
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I like that he thinks enough of one one my routines to perform it.
I wish he had asked first. Then again it takes all kinds to make sure magic continues to suck.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Joe Russell
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I found something I love but if it ever starts becoming a choir for me and the spark has died away I would quit in an instant. maybe alls you need is a little break.


Posted: Oct 12, 2005 4:13pm
--------------------------------------------
If it's not fun any more than don't force yourself to do it.
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