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

RandyWakeman
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Wesley James Thoughts: "Emotional Connections?"

I sometimes reflect upon the words of aesthetic historian Walter Pater, who wrote, "All art aspires to the condition of music." That simple sentence is not nearly as easy to interpret as its brevity would suggest, so I reflect upon it from time to time. My thoughts have lead me to draw comparisons to the way musicians deal with their role and the presentation of their art to the public. I find the most analogous relationship for magicians to the singer-musician who plays piano, guitar or the like and sings. While there are some important differences, there are also many important similarities.

Admittedly, the thoughts I'll share in this post are musings. I have no agenda and no particular routine, effect or venue in which I hope to apply these ideas. I'm offering these thoughts in the hope of initiating a discussion of the performance of magic at a level a rung higher than the-best-trick or a presentation for any particular effect.

When a competent singer-musician performs, they must play their instrument, employing as much technique as the piece demands, sing the lyrics to the song on pitch, on rhythm and with style and emotion. Those are given. Of course, merely doing those things won't, in an of themselves, assure an effective performance. Rather, they are the minimum standard for a competent performer. Beyond that, through address of the audience, personal chemistry and a host of intangible factors, some performers are able to connect with their audience and create a moving experience. I can fondly remember evenings when I watched and experienced such connections at work. When they occur, they are, in their way, "magical." I don't want to get too far afield here but I experienced jazz singer Morgana King live at an outdoor concert in Central Park hold an audience so completely in the palm of her hand she could have sung "Mary had a little lamb . . ." and brought the group to tears.

I have only extremely rarely in the many years I've been in magic seen a magical performer connect with an audience in that way, never mind to that degree. I suspect the reason is that the great majority of performers have too little mastery of their material to be able to direct themselves to their audiences, effectively precluding any real connection. Of those who have practiced and rehearsed adequately, I would ask, do these performers know they should be connecting with their audience? If they do, have they tried to understand what fuels that connection? I can't ever recall reading a single word in any piece of magic literature that has addressed the matter. I'll happily stand corrected if someone can point out address of the issue to me.

This post is getting rather long so I'll wrap it up by asking what thought have any of you, all of you, given to creating an emotional connection with your audiences when performing? I look forward to your responses.

Wesley James
Stuart Hooper
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While I agree that mastery of the instrument is essential, there seems to be too much focus on the technical aspects of magic, as opposed to the emotional.

Perhaps this is because so many magicians *gasp* get into magic to be interesting or, connect with people? I don't know if this is true, it's a guess.

Regardless, I've always held that before someone entertains with magic, they should go to a party, and be able to entertain, inspire joy, seduce, enthrall people...all WITHOUT THE ART OF MAGIC.

Once that's done, add magic, and you have a brilliant entertainer.

IMO.
Wesley James
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Mithrandir,
If most young performers could do what you describe they likely wouldn't become magicians, they'd become politicians. Consider, if you will, this explanation.

Most magicians begin in magic, and many other performing arts, feeling like young social misfits, they want to be popular and think magic, music, comedy or whatever form is their ticket to popularity. It is not accidental that the most recurrent common element of successful actors--and I suspect unsuccessful ones as well--is the loss of a parent during their early years, either due to death or divorce. Watch a show like Inside the Actor's Workshop and you'll quickly recognize this pattern. The sense of loss leads to low self esteem that yearns for compensation for in some way. Performing does it for some.

Whatever the reasons one gets into performing, the best reason to perform is to reach beyond yourself to give something to those who experience your performances. One can think of it as giving service. Doing so is the psychologically healthiest and most solid basis on which to rebuild self esteem. Suggesting, as you do, that you have to start out with the skills that grow from healthy self-esteem, it seems to me, is putting the cart before the horse.

Submitted for your consideration,

Wesley James
Stuart Hooper
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Mr james, I suppose I have not met many young magicians, so I cannot say for sure.

But nearly all of the musicians, I have associated with, as well as some other niche hobbies, have either been quite "popular" or at least, had friends and interesting people all over.

I daresay, sir, that the qualities that I describe might make a good politicians, as well as musicians, speakers, teachers, advocates, salesmen, poets, generals...in essense, the ART of conversation, and the ability to direct flows of emotion, and gain insight into people, these qualities are useful in many walks of life!

If sir, as you say, most young people become magicians because they are NOT extroverted, or social, or particularly good with people, then I submit that as evidence of WHY we see attitudes of reactionism present in area's like ellusionist.com.

I grew up in a highly social arena, with people from all over the world, constantly stopping by. Fed on stories of yahts in the Med, and climbing in afganistan, and teaching in Iran, and owning nightclups in south america, I mean I've had some interesting times, and met some interesting people. Nearly all of them, paint, or scuplt, or play music, or something, not to make themselves interesting, but to channel their engeries, to focus the beauties they've seen.

At any rate, these are the reasons I've taken up magic and music. Magic just seems to be extra-suited to connecting with people.
Wesley James
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Mithrandir,
Perhaps it is best that we leave this subject at "For those who understand, no explanation is necessary. For those who don't, no explanation is possible."

Peace,

Wesley James
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