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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Food for thought » » Basic structure of any magic affect (9 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Gerald Deutsch
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Quote:
On Aug 24, 2017, longhaired1 wrote:
I look forward to reading page 7 of this thread three months from now after it has devolved into full blown cyber fisticuffs.


That might be entertaining.
longhaired1
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Or just astonishing.
funsway
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There is a new field of study called "Psychology of Entertainment" with various publications worth reading.

Most seem to agree that today's audience's have a completely different appreciation and expectation of "being entertained" than decades ago,
I looked at these for possible implications for "performance magic" and the traditional "know your audience" theme. I have posted some of the views previously with little reaction from Café members.
So, I have avoided posting on this forum while enjoying the insights of many postings.

I would offer one observation (opinion) in an attempt to get this thread back on track --

Should not a consideration of "basic structure" of either "effect" or "affect" be based on the expectations of the observer and not the desires of performers?
Magic occurs in the mind of that observer and a performer can create/enhance the conditions under which this might occur -- or they can sow confusion, puzzlement and boredom.
The right "formula" may change for different audiences, and any performance may have to contain element of education and focus as well as your favorite trick/effect.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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Dannydoyle
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Leaving the audience out of any structure for any sort of entertainment is done at te artists peril.
Danny Doyle
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<BR>In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act....George Orwell
Jonathan Townsend
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On Aug 24, 2017, longhaired1 wrote:
Or just astonishing.


Can we go with "engaging"? There's gotta be something for the audience to notice and report to others - the effect.

Yes, of course you could paint a wall and then have people discover that the paint won't dry but come on let's discuss practical work that we can bring to our audiences.
...to all the coins I've dropped here
Stellan
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Main Entry: entertain
Part of Speech: verb
Definition: amuse
Synonyms: absorb, beguile, captivate, charm, cheer, comfort, crack up, delight, distract, divert, ecstasize, elate, engross, enliven, enthrall, gladden, grab, gratify, humor, indulge, inspire, inspirit, interest, knock dead, make merry, occupy, pique, please, recreate, regale, relax, satisfy, slay, solace, stimulate, tickle
Antonyms: bore, tire
"There is no reality, only perception."
Stellan
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The synonyms above are pretty much a jobdescription for a magician besides using magic tricks to by deception imply the impossible.
The real trick is of course to know how to do all of them, but if you do most of them you will probably do fine.
Hmm, I think tickling is a little underrated in magic.
"There is no reality, only perception."
tommy
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Fellas talk about all sorts of amusements after the game - even poker players have their stories to report to others. It is all a game, a play.
If there is a single truth about Magic, it is that nothing on earth so efficiently evades it.

Tommy
Pop Haydn
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Quote:
On Aug 26, 2017, Stellan wrote:
The synonyms above are pretty much a jobdescription for a magician besides using magic tricks to by deception imply the impossible.
The real trick is of course to know how to do all of them, but if you do most of them you will probably do fine.
Hmm, I think tickling is a little underrated in magic.



To what are other demonstrations might these words apply? Are these useful in defining Magic as an art distinct from ventriloquism? Wouldn't they also apply to any clown, comic, mime, strong man, sword swallower, contortionist, juggler, singer or almost any performer? How does such a definition help us to separate the rules of the art of magic from those of any other art?
Stellan
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Reading the list brought to my attention the variety of meanings the English word entertainment has. It does not help to separate magic from other entertaining art forms as entertainment is the common denominator.

It is often mentioned that the most important things in magic performances are entertainment and magic tricks. It is the magic trick part, that is to by deception present something impossible, that makes it distinct from other art forms. Often when people say that it is important that magic is entertaining they do not explain what that means. They only seem to refer to a general feeling of having a good time and it seldom gets more specific than that.

Maybe it would be helpful to talk about the structure of entertainment as well as the structure of magic and in this context this list of synonyms could be useful. To me it seems to be even better to use a more operational angle and talk about the strategies of entertainment and the strategies of magic. How do you charm them? What can I say to inspire them? What can I do to tickle their mind? Where do I put this trick that will slay them?

The rules or strategies of entertainment are very different from the strategies of magic that serve to deceive.
"There is no reality, only perception."
funsway
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Many of the terms on Stellans' list can apply to fine dining as well. We do say, "entertain guests" to imply an expectation of enjoyment through food, drink and conversation.

We have all had memorable dining experiences, while most eating events are best forgotten.

So, what makes that family Thanksgiving dinner when you returned from Iraq memorable vs last week's quickie burger dribbling on your shirt? The onlookers were entertained!

In both events something impossible happened. But at the feast, relatives who normally bicker get alone. Your Aunt who normally burns water turns out an amazing apple pie.
The teenagers had good manners and actually contributed to the conversation. No one mentioned your missing eye, etc.

At least, that is what you remember. What actually occurred is of little concern. Everyone appreciated the situation and responded appropriately.
Everyone had an expectation of impossible things happening. Everyone was focused on the magic and not themselves to the game on TV.

I doubt anyone there told a friend, "I had an entertaining evening." Yet they were entertained within the definition of the term.

We could talk about the best way to set the table, or best way to make gravy. We could argue about seating protocol and the history of turkey raising.
All of these were part of making the evening "entertaining." None had much to do with why the event was memorable or magical.

Consider that this family get-together gave them an excuse NOT to talk of war or politics or injury or past squabbles.

Maybe people enjoy magic because for a moment they forget real problems and are filled with hope that the impossible in their lives can be defeated.

Just a thought to entertain.
"the more one pretends at magic, the more awe and wonder will be found in real life." Arnold Furst



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longhaired1
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As to the original post:

Quote:
On Aug 9, 2017, suyash wrote:
What do you think are the most fundamental elements of the structure of any magic effect or trick?


I don't recall if this is something I read from Teller or Pop Haydn, or heard from Penn on his podcast, but I liked it. I'm also going to post from memory so butchery may occur.

The fundamental difference between magic and other types of theatre is that the setting for traditional theatre is in another time and another place. When you go see a play, what is being portrayed takes place elsewhere and at some other time. With magic what you are seeing is happening here and now, in this time and in this space. It's a different claim than a play. A play creates the illusion that you are witnessing events that are happening elsewhere and else-when. Magic creates the illusion that you are witnessing the impossible in this space and at this time.

To me, that is the basic structure of a magic effect, and is universal. I can say with confidence that the structure outlined in the original post does not correspond with any magic trick I have ever performed.

As to the discussion of entertaining vs not entertaining, I feel my primary role as a magician is to entertain. As an actor my primary role (or goal) varies. When I played P.T. Barnum in the musical Barnum, entertaining the audience was high on my list of goals. When I played Bill Livingston in Women of Lockerbie I had no goal of entertaining the audience. Quite the opposite. I had a stated goal of hearing people crying in the theatre by the end of the performance.

I've seen magic performances that are light hearted as well as performances that are moving and profound, and I don't believe either of those are mutually exclusive from being entertaining. I have written, but not produced, a magic routine that revolves around a man reminiscing about his deceased wife. (Oddly I wrote the piece prior to losing my wife to cancer). If I ever decide to produce and perform the piece I would want it to be profound and emotionally moving, but I wouldn't perform it before an audience if it wasn't also an entertaining piece.
Josh Riel
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My wife and I went to the Magic Castle a few years ago, we were in the area and Pop was performing.
I wanted to just sit at the bar and watch Pop Haydn all night, and I would have... except my wife wanted to see the other magicians.

We did (because it's ALWAYS about the wife) and of course the others were great with one exception:
There was a mentalist affect -essentially a signed note to envelope- he had an elaborate explanation filled with emotion and.... bleh, lots of "enterainment", lots of what some people call "build up".
Me: hated every second, hated it as if the pain was physical
My wife: still talks about it to this day.
One of the best tricks she ever saw.

Maybe not directly related to structure, but perhaps how "basic" probably doesn't apply in magic.
Magic is doing improbable things with odd items that, under normal circumstances, would be unnessecary and quite often undesirable.
Stellan
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Quote:
On Aug 27, 2017, longhaired1 wrote:

The fundamental difference between magic and other types of theatre is that the setting for traditional theatre is in another time and another place. When you go see a play, what is being portrayed takes place elsewhere and at some other time. With magic what you are seeing is happening here and now, in this time and in this space. It's a different claim than a play. A play creates the illusion that you are witnessing events that are happening elsewhere and else-when. Magic creates the illusion that you are witnessing the impossible in this space and at this time.


Though this is an important aspect of a magic performance, it does not separate it from a clown or juggler performance or a football match or a concert.

Quote:
As to the discussion of entertaining vs not entertaining, I feel my primary role as a magician is to entertain. As an actor my primary role (or goal) varies. When I played P.T. Barnum in the musical Barnum, entertaining the audience was high on my list of goals. When I played Bill Livingston in Women of Lockerbie I had no goal of entertaining the audience. Quite the opposite. I had a stated goal of hearing people crying in the theatre by the end of the performance.


The use of the word "entertain" and the meanings of it seem to, at least in parts, to lack consensus. You seem first to use it in the strict meaning of "amuse". The opposite, see my post above, should be "bore" or "tire". This is, if I get you right, not the meaning you give it.

When it comes to the basic structure of a magic trick I think it has three parts: A social context, a ruse that implies something impossible and its presentation.
"There is no reality, only perception."
Alan Wheeler
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The Venn diagram of three overlapping circles would display magic in the centermost overlap, which includes fantasy effect, deceptive method, and theatrical presentation.

Like a fire which requires fuel, oxygen, and heat, all three elements must be present for our magic.

In the Venn diagram, the area where the fantasy effect and deceptive method overlap = the work of the charlatan. (No theatrical context)
The area where fantasy effect and theatrical presentation overlap = the work of storybook magic or fantasy films. (No hidden method)
The area where deceptive method and theatrical presentation overlap = the work of the special effect artist. (No impossible effect)

I appreciate some of the other aspects mentioned here that pertain to our magic:
it's a live performance art, real-time, real space deception, audience participation, entertainment...
The views and comments expressed on this post may be mere speculation and are not necessarily the opinions, values, or beliefs of Alan Wheeler.
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Alan Wheeler
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Penn and Teller demonstrate Our Magic minus the impossible effect in their famous piece based around smoking and sleight of hand.
Other examples from life of magic without effect would be spy games and confidence art, Mission-Impossible type scenarios.
The P & T piece focuses on that part of the three-circle Venn diagram where only deceptive method and theatrical presentation intersect.
The piece is funny and amazing because it enacts almost a one-liner joke: did you hear the one about the magic without the impossible effect?



Magic minus the deceptive method might still portray an impossible effect with a theatrical presentation, another section of the Venn diagram.
Here is a comedic example, but Harry Potter would be a more serious example of magic without method.



Magic minus the theatrical presentation would include hauntings, internet psychics, crop circles, hoaxes, and so on.
This area of the Venn diagram includes only the intersection of method and effect.

The views and comments expressed on this post may be mere speculation and are not necessarily the opinions, values, or beliefs of Alan Wheeler.
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The Hermit
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Quote:
On Aug 27, 2017, longhaired1 wrote:
As to the original post:

Quote:
On Aug 9, 2017, suyash wrote:
What do you think are the most fundamental elements of the structure of any magic effect or trick?


I don't recall if this is something I read from Teller or Pop Haydn, or heard from Penn on his podcast, but I liked it. I'm also going to post from memory so butchery may occur.

The fundamental difference between magic and other types of theatre is that the setting for traditional theatre is in another time and another place. When you go see a play, what is being portrayed takes place elsewhere and at some other time. With magic what you are seeing is happening here and now, in this time and in this space. It's a different claim than a play. A play creates the illusion that you are witnessing events that are happening elsewhere and else-when. Magic creates the illusion that you are witnessing the impossible in this space and at this time.

To me, that is the basic structure of a magic effect, and is universal. I can say with confidence that the structure outlined in the original post does not correspond with any magic trick I have ever performed.

As to the discussion of entertaining vs not entertaining, I feel my primary role as a magician is to entertain. As an actor my primary role (or goal) varies. When I played P.T. Barnum in the musical Barnum, entertaining the audience was high on my list of goals. When I played Bill Livingston in Women of Lockerbie I had no goal of entertaining the audience. Quite the opposite. I had a stated goal of hearing people crying in the theatre by the end of the performance.

I've seen magic performances that are light hearted as well as performances that are moving and profound, and I don't believe either of those are mutually exclusive from being entertaining. I have written, but not produced, a magic routine that revolves around a man reminiscing about his deceased wife. (Oddly I wrote the piece prior to losing my wife to cancer). If I ever decide to produce and perform the piece I would want it to be profound and emotionally moving, but I wouldn't perform it before an audience if it wasn't also an entertaining piece.


Actually the problem is that most magic seems to take place in a time long ago. Most magic is performed now as it was a hundred years ago. That's why so much is boring, no context to connect to. To your point about theater above, that is exactly what Copperfield did to magic. He made the illusion a mini play. Making it a story that is played out in 5 minutes. It stood on it's own, not just another trick in the program. Magicians saw this and decided they needed more assistants, better music and cooler haircut. They took it, put it together and performed it like it always was plus cute girls and good music. Made it as boring as the Linking Rings at magic camp.
Alan Wheeler
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I appreciate all the contributions to this thread!

Quote:
I'm trying to focus on the basic structure without going into other topics such as story or patter as they are another topics all by themselves.


To focus on the effect proper, combining Ascanio's structure with Roberto Giobbi's produces the following:

Initial condition
Magic Moment (plus hidden causal link)
Final condition
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joshua the magician
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In expert card technique they say a card trick should consist of three important elements:
1.) Definitive plot : establish why you are doing this.
2.) Amusing incidents : entertainment/supporting magical bits
3.) Clearly defined climax : the grand finale. Conclusion. Resolve the conflict. The trick is definitely over.

always a good skeletal structure to keep in back of your mind when designing a trick.
magicly,
joshua
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I'M NOT READING ANYONE ELSE'S POSTS IN THIS THREAD AND YOUUUU CAN'T STOP ME. Smile

suyash:

I am contributing to your search for an answer by suggesting the following:

The first part of magic, at the very least, has to be to convince the audience of something, to come to some common ground. In other words, in order to feel astonished at finding a bill in a lemon, the audience has to believe that it is the original bill. It may not be entertaining in the PROFESSIONAL SENSE, but it is still magic. Although it might not be if the audience doesn't care enough to remember the first part of the trick.

So the first step is to find the part of the audience that agrees with you. An example would be cross examining a witness. Never dissect a witness in court unless they can be pinned down to something. Until they say something definitive, no line of questioning will work.

If people don't care that the cup is solid, hit it with the wand. If people don't react to the cups and balls effect the first time, start tossing the ball in the air. It lets them know the ball has weight. Then they are more likely to be astonished when it vanishes and moves around.

That's part 1.

However, as for the rest of the effect, Maskelyne (an old magician from the Golden Age of Magic) has written a book outlining three different types of effects.

So it helps to broaden your idea of what a magical effect is to read his book.

There can be effects of surprise, of repetition and of transition.

Any effect that is an effect of transition should be performed as slowly as comfortable, simply to find the limits with the audience... (Meaning, do it as slowly as you possibly can, at least one time in your life.)

An effect of transition is: Tommy Wonder's diminishing cards. Or the sprouting seed. Houdin's flowering Orange Tree. Bottle through table could be done very slowly, compared to how most perform it. Linking rings a la Teller. (Swinging the rings apart.)

The rule is this: If the end of the magic trick comes when a cover is pulled off, then it is an effect of surprise. No need to consider it a transition effect. Eg: lifting your hand, lifting a cup, pulling off a handkerchief, opening a box, crushing a newspaper... that last one is a grey area, as would be poking swords into boxes.

Effects of repetition would be: Producing cards or coins. Card under glass. Even the first part of cups and balls. That is why cups and balls is classic. It combines repetition and surprise.
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