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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The April 2004 entrée: Wesley James » » Flourishes? » » TOPIC IS LOCKED (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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RandyWakeman
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Quote:
I do not advocate sacrificing that strength for the sake of ego gratification, as reflected by an audience's admiration of our skill. But that's just my opinion, could I be wrong?

Wesley James


Naturally, you could be; but you are not.

Seeking ego gratification or appreciation of one's skill is reprehensible if you truly care about your audience-- and what they are feeling, thinking, and experiencing. To focus on one's personal "needs" as a performer, rather than the goal of providing a path for the audience to enjoy amazement, fun, bafflement, intrigue, and personal involvement can have predictably poor results.

Flourishes can have that horrid affectation on a magical experience. Like a "Roman soldier wearing a wristwatch," the audience can be quickly extracted from the moment and their immersion in the Magic.

Once taken away from that precious feeling, it is a formidable task to ever reclaim it. The bond of trust we seek to forge with our audience when we call ourselves "magicians," once violated-- can never be fully restored.
CWMoss
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Is a magician claiming to do magic different from a mentalist claiming to read minds? I think the disclaimer mentioned by Jason England doesn't need to be said because it is already in the minds of the spectators. As magicians, we should hide the wires and point the way in order to allow the spectators to make the leap if they choose. To expect the audience to believe in magic can come across the way many mentalists do. Some love it and others don't. Why not leave room for both? Entertain those that refuse to believe and allow those that do to revel in their fantasy?
Stuart Hooper
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Don't you get it!? When we, or I don't know about we, when I speak of real magic, I'm not saying, to the spectators, "look mere mortal, I make a coin vanish, and it's a god-given gift!"

No, no, NO!

Sir, when I speak of real magic, (and I believe Mr. James as well, though, this is presumteous), I speak of wonder, amazement, and laughter! A feeling that BEAUTY HAS TRANSPIRED!

Beauty = magic in my opinion! That means painting, scuplting, music, magic, and naked women are magical too me! Others will have similiar tastes! All of these things involve connection, and emotion! This real magic! It has the power to change people, and inspire them do great things. Art can intimidate, inpire joy, change emotion in a truly MAGICAL WAY.

And for those who do not think that coins and cards, the Art of magic, is a beauty akin to the other Arts, I leave you with Einstien's quote.

"the most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious"
Schaden
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Quote:
On 2004-04-14 15:19, Wesley James wrote:
Pyro,
See the post above. There's a lot of room between card sharp and klutz. Failing to see that will only serve to narrow your options....


To us magicians, there is a difference but, to spectators there isn't. Either your skilled your not in a spectator minds. Spectators don't say, "Your pass is good but, you should work on your double lift." No, they think your bad because your technique and misdirection doesn't fool them. I believe that a calm, smooth and confident magician makes spectators feel he is skilled. You should take this into consideration; do flourish bring up the issue of skill rather then make spectator think you are skilled. For example, when I was a lay person, I didn't even think about what the magician could do with a pack because I was amazed. However, if he did many flourishes(and I do mean many) I would have started thinking more about his skill. Spectators know when a magician is good but, if he doesn't do anything to show his skill, spectator's will totally forget about it. So, not doing [many] flourishes is a misdirection for skill.

Lee
RandyWakeman
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No, they think your bad because your technique and misdirection doesn't fool them.


Nonsense. If you do not fool and amaze them, you are not a magician, nor are you performing Magic. "Fooling" is requisite; it is in no way an option.
Jonathan Townsend
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I like the 'amaze' part of that. The fooling ... not so comfortable about. Some folks are wary of magic and magicians for fear of being made to feel foolish.
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Wesley James
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Lee,
I'm afraid your argument is all over the lot. As I read it, it boils down to a projection of what you want to be true being true because you say it is and it marries with your experience. Lay people are every bit as intelligent as we are. Some are more intelligent. They may be uninformed about the methods we use but they can judge someone to have technical skill even if they don't. A great case in point was Liberace. Liberace was a terrible pianist by any technical standard one might apply but he filled his playing with trills and arpeggios--flourishes--that persuaded many that he was as good as Horowitz, to whom he could not hold a candle. It makes little difference whether he was actually skillful, he appeared to be and that made it so for his audiences. Nevertheless, without a single flourish anyone with ears would instantly know upon hearing him play that Horowitz was not merely skillful but a virtuoso.

Moving that example to the sphere of magic, if one does flourishes, the audience, rightly or wrongly, will conclude you are skillful. If you evoke a powerful emotional response in your audience they will know you are an skillful performer, if not technician, and an artist.

Given the choice, I'd rather be Horowitz than Liberace. Mass appeal aside--it has never been a valid criteria for judging art, only commerciality--I would prefer to be an artist than a hack.

Wesley James
JasonEngland
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On 2004-04-14 07:23, Wesley James wrote:
I don't suggest that it is impossible for an audience, magical or film-viewing, to react emotionally if the threads show, only that it is easier for them to do so when they don't.


Okay, this is more like it. The quote of yours that I initially responded to made it seem like you felt it WAS impossible to achieve that sense of wonder with an audience that knows about "the wires" as it were.

Quote:
Toward that end, I do all that I can to hide the wires and conceal the automatronics, which includes my skill.


And I do too for the most part. But I felt you and Randy were saying that you CANNOT have a magical "moment" with an audience if that audience is aware of the mere possibility of wires. And that is a notion I object to.

Quote:
Following Jason's line of reasoning puts one on a slippery slope toward accepting the notion that exposing our methods is equally innocuous, since emotional impact remains possible. I don't believe exposure nearly so harmless and I don't think Jason does either...


Well, I don't believe that method specific exposure is harmless by a long shot! I would never approve of someone saying, "I got your card in my wallet by palming it and introducing it into a slit in the wallet," etc. But I don't necessarily have a problem with answering a question like "How did you do that?" with words that while vague, made it clear that what the spectator just saw wasn't anything approaching a violation of the laws of physics. I guess what I'm saying is that I won't help point out the wires to them, but I don't mind discussing the possibility of wires with intelligent audiences (most of whom have surmised that the wires are there already).

Randy,

I find it difficult to relate to "bubbles of amazement" and I don't know that I've engaged in "forging bonds of trust" down at the Castle in the past 5 years or so. I do know that I have happy, enthusiastic audiences that I don't BS with talk of "real" magic. I also know that when pressed, I am capable of "talking around" the actual methods while allowing them the intellectual knowledge that I haven't broken any physical laws. I feel they are more appreciative, more cognizant of the challenges of walking the fine line between saying "It's magic!" while in character, but admitting it isn't a few minutes later after the show, and generally more receptive than they might be if I insisted that it's the real thiing.

With this in mind, how exactly does the kingdom fall when a magician executes a pretty ribbon spread, or one-handed shuffle, or flourishy relevation?

Is Malone a magician? His audiences are aware he possesses great skill (just ask them). Doesn't this burst, or at least deflate, the bubble of amazement?

Williamson sends a card spinning from the middle of the deck and into his waiting right hand during his Torn and Restored Transposition. Has the bubble burst? How is he recovering?

David Roth demonstrates tremendous skill with his coins. Obviously he is fighting an uphill battle with his audiences. I wonder how he's managed all these years?

The obvious answer in all 3 cases is that overt displays of skill DO NOT necessarily detract from an otherwise magical performance. To insist that it detracts in light of hundreds of performances where it obviously hasn't is laughable. Maybe it does in some cases, maybe it doesn't in others. It depends on the character (Wesley had it right from the start in that regard).

Jason
Eternal damnation awaits anyone who questions God's unconditional love. --Bill Hicks
Stuart Hooper
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Dear me, you do miss the point!

Be very careful about calling "real magic" ********, please.

If you do not believe the end product of your skill and presentations can result in real magic, then of course, you will not produce real magic.

It begs the question then, if not looking to inspire the feeling that is REAL MAGIC, what are you looking to do with the art?

Or to you, perhaps it is not an Art? A mere display of skill? What are your goals, sir, I am curious.
Wesley James
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Randy,
As you know, from the title of my first set of lecture notes, Stop Fooling Us!, I too have a problem with the word "fooling." I realize that you use the word with as little pejorative sense as you can but by definition the word means: to make a fool of. I never want to think of what I do for an audience as making fools of them. As I see it we are sharing the experience of watching the laws of the universe appear to be violated. We both know that I know precisely how this apparent violation is being created but we agree, for the duration of the performance, to allow that something beyond us is at work. That something else can differ from one effect to the next but I am the person who is bringing them this exhibition of impossible phenomena. There is no fool in my scenario, just bright people having fun creating a world where the impossible is possible, if only for now.

My dear friend, Earl "Presto" Johnson, captures the spirit beautifully with one line. "Take [the objects used in the effect] home and try this, it won't work, but you'll have a lot of fun." This communicates that you and they both know that you are the ultimate modus operandi behind what happens but viewing the process is a lot of fun. I would not use the line--even apart from the fact that it is his--since it isn't in keeping with my character, but it is completely consistent with Presto's. No one is made a fool of but they are enthralled with what they are witnessing, the hell with how it's done, at least for now.

Wesley James
Schaden
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You can't compare magic to music because music is skill based. To be a good musician you have to have a lot of skill but, magic you can get away with little skill. I am sure many magicians don't have the skill of Marlo but, they can preform on his level. Liberace did what he need to do, to entertain his listeners and that's all that matters. His use of 'flourishes' worked just the opposite as they do in magic. In music flourishes can hide lack of skill, in magic it only brings up the thought of skill in the spectators mind. I going to admit, I don't really even know what I fighting for anymore.

Lee
Wesley James
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Lee,
A child can sing and make it musical: witness Shirley Temple. How much skill can it require? Mozart wrote and played classical piano pieces that survive to this day when he was seven years old. How much skill can it take? Talent, yes, but skill? Visit a Karaoke bar and tell me that music is skill based. Being able to play four chords on a guitar does not represent much skill, but it has been the basis for careers.

Singing on key is not a skill, it's a talent. All the training in the world won't teach a person who is tone-deaf--and many people are--how to stay on pitch. Interestingly, being tone-deaf doesn't preclude them enjoying music. Your argument is facile but inconsistent with the facts for all musicians.

Beyond that, if you don't know what you're fighting about, may I cordially invite you to stop fighting?

Wesley James
RandyWakeman
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Quote:
On 2004-04-14 21:55, JasonEngland wrote:
With this in mind, how exactly does the kingdom fall when a magician executes a pretty ribbon spread, or one-handed shuffle, or flourishy relevation?

Is Malone a magician? His audiences are aware he possesses great skill (just ask them). Doesn't this burst, or at least deflate, the bubble of amazement?

Williamson sends a card spinning from the middle of the deck and into his waiting right hand during his Torn and Restored Transposition. Has the bubble burst? How is he recovering?

David Roth demonstrates tremendous skill with his coins. Obviously he is fighting an uphill battle with his audiences. I wonder how he's managed all these years?


The notion is not how the "kingdom falls," but how the kingdom becomes a more magical place for the presence of flourishes.

There is very little need for me to ask Bill Malone's audiences what they think, as we worked together for so many years. Most think he is a bit insane, does somes cool things, and is a hilarious fellow. All this, before he ever does any magic.

I trust David Williamson is doing well, and presume that David Roth has "managed" as a toy shop magic demonstrator and as Ricky Jay's 53rd assistant, among other things.
Scott F. Guinn
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On 2004-04-14 23:21, Wesley James wrote:

Beyond that, if you don't know what you're fighting about, may I cordially invite you to stop fighting?

Wesley James


An excellent, reasonable invitation that should be accepted!
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T. Joseph O'Malley
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Music=magic=martial arts=dance=any artform, imho. They're all the same thing, coming from different directions, but inherently they accomplish their goals in the same ways. "Skill" can be defined in many ways. Caruso was a great musician, as is Tom Waits, again my opinion. Both have different skill sets on some levels, but both are/were capable of translating their emotions into something we can try to relate to.

I saw David Williamson perform once. There were no "overt" displays of skill or flourishes. I saw the card fly out of the centre of the pack into his hand, but I didn't see a flourish, because he didn't play it up as one. He acted as surprised as the rest of us, the card simply "jumped" out of there, and he was as caught off guard as the rest of us.

But I wonder, what of Cardini? Things were just "occuring" all around him, fans of cards appearing, lit cigarettes, etc and he had no real control over them - technically Cardini was all about flourishes, but because of the way he carried himself, they didn't appear as flourishes. His character took these flourishes and made them irrelevant, as far as displays of skill were concerned. He was able to make flourishes seem like real acts of random magic. I wish I could have seen his act live...

Anyway, I have had too much beer and must get to bed.
tjo'
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It is with some feeling of irony that the flourish "topic" flourishes in the middle of Wesley's Guest of Honor appearance.

Bill Malone was a talented, engaging, entertaining personality some 27 years ago, and remains so today. David Roth's talent and ability is in no reasonable dispute. David Williamson's force of personality, talent, and ability to entertain is hardly in doubt, either. In my opinion, none of the above make any substantative case for the use of foisted flourishes or overt displays of skill, with David Roth's work distinctly void of unnatural or meaningless moves.

That said, a "flourish" is a vague term. The question that I believe is worth asking, and then defining in one's own terms-- is "What precisely is added to the experience of your audience with careless use of meandering manipulative displays?" There will always be the exceptions that prove the rule. I have seen the "snap crackle pop" genre of eye candy injected, to the clear detriment of an overall performance and audience experience. Have you?

It is well worth anyone's time to take another, fresher look, and see if that unfortunate potential has infected a portion of your act, or somehow diminishes the impact of perhaps only one of your routines. Whether it indeed has or not, no one can broadly state over Al Gore's Internet. Complacency can be a vile thing, and anything can be improved. Performance Art has always been a dynamic, not a stale or static affair-- unless one wishes it to become so.

There is nothing wrong with asking and re-asking yourself "Why?" a flourish, move, or sequence remains in place. Are there clear reasons for it (or them), or not? It is not a one size fits all sabot.

If the goal is amazement that "just happens" due to apparently nothing at all, using methods both unseen and unsuspected-- it follows that anything that could possibly allow new visibility, awareness, or suspicion to present itself to the eyes, hearts, or minds of your intended audience should be avoided.
Scott F. Guinn
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On 2004-04-15 02:19, RandyWakeman wrote:
If the goal is amazement that "just happens" due to apparently nothing at all, using methods both unseen and unsuspected-- it follows that anything that could possibly allow new visibility, awareness, or suspicion to present itself to the eyes, hearts, or minds of your intended audience should be avoided.


That is one of the most succinct, lucid explanations of the subject matter I've ever read! While there may be room for debate, I wholeheartedly agree with randy on this one.
"Love God, laugh more, spend more time with the ones you love, play with children, do good to those in need, and eat more ice cream. There is more to life than magic tricks." - Scott F. Guinn
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whitelephant
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Amen

And as an afterthought the word "amen" comes from the same Hebrew root as "ma-a-mein" which means believe-AND "aman" which is an artist.
drink water...
Wesley James
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Whitelephant,
There is some dispute about the origins of the term "Amen." It is arguably not accidental that the sound of "Amen" and the sound "Aum"--the Hindu chant that simulates the sound of God. Nevertheless, I am in basic agreement with my friend Randy's last post.

Wesley James
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It is fascinating that this subject has garnered the greatest number of posts, suggesting that it has not been subject to sufficient debate in recent magical literature. IMO, Wesley’s comments are well reasoned and non-polarizing. However, the issue of a spectator’s mental process while watching magic is a highly complex one. There seems to be an unstated assumption throughout the posts that the event that takes place in the spectator’s mind is primarily determined by the performance. Certainly, perception is partially determined by the viewer’s prior knowledge and experience: the sum total of the magic-related and non magic-related events the spectator has been involved in. Equally important is his or her habitual way of looking at the world such as consistent application of the scientific method or a predilection for free floating fantasy. Undoubtedly, some audiences will supply their own skill-based explanation in the absence of any flourishes whatsoever. Of course, if the performer is more card-juggler than magician, then he is encouraging this mind set. The question is whether a minor amount of skill-display (just enough to mitigate the Uncle Charlie factor) necessarily diminishes or eliminates the sense of wonder we are trying to create.

I believe an experiment could shed some light on this question. We could ask a widely respected pro, one known for creating awe rather than admiration, to arrange a card program that was identical in every respect except that fifty percent of the performances would start with a normal shuffle and cut, and fifty percent with a one hand shuffle and cut. After each show, the magician would make notes on reaction, using his finely tuned radar from years of experience. He would do this for many dozens of performances so that the mental baggage of the spectators would tend to even out due to the effects of random distribution. When the results are tallied, would the few seconds of flourishes at the beginning of half the performances be enough to significantly affect the outcomes for the two groups? My gut feeling is that the TOTAL performance, combined with the spectators’ varying preconceptions about magic would be the primary determinants, making a small showing of skill in the first few seconds hardly noticeable. Thus both sets of performances would be essentially equal in terms of engendering a sense of wonder. I suspect Wesley would disagree with me on this but only carrying out the experiment would supply evidence one way or another.
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