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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » What happened, was this... » » Sounds of Silence (1 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

normative
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I'm a hobbyist/amateur with the good fortune to live just off an urban traffic circle with a micro-park that serves as hangout for a melange of neighborhood old timers, hipster gentrifiers, and students from the dorms of the historically-black university around the corner. I mostly perform street magic there just for the fun of injecting a weird moment into the evenings of strangers. (I can tell I'm succeeding with the college kids if they say: "Can I Snapchat/Instagram this?")

Recently, maybe inspired by my longtime love of Teller's work and that of magicians in the Georges Melies vein, I decided I'd experiment with doing this in total silence. For a variety of reasons, this is probably not an attractive strategy for professional walk-around magicians (who don't happen to be accompanied by Penn Jilette) but for my own purposes, I was quite pleased by the results. For one, I found people actually paid much MORE attention. Partly because instead of some rando walking up to ask "can I show you something?" it was the most interested member of the group doing all the talking (obliging that person's friends to pay at least cursory attention, which they properly don't necessarily feel any need to do for a stranger who's just walked up) as they work through my pantomimes — "You want me to say stop? OK... and... now I sign that card?" Partly because in context the refusal to speak automatically creates a faintly otherworldly "what's happening here? what planet is this guy from?" atmosphere.

Obviously, this limited the effects I could try to those that can be carried off without patter or elaborate instruction. For an opener I just adapted Rick Lax's "Bitcoin" version of the old bitten-&-restored quarter: Walk up to a small group, display the coin for long enough that it registers, bite a chunk out, produce the "bitten out" piece from your mouth, look puzzled, put the piece back in your mouth, "spit" it to restore the coin, and then do a quick switch & drop an ordinary quarter in the hand of whomever seems most intrigued. This requires so little intrusion on people's time that if they don't seem all THAT interested you can just smile & walk off & still leave them with a nice "Whaaa?" moment. Because the trick is so simple & I wasn't busy with patter, I could turn almost all my attention to assessing whether they wanted to see more—and to who was most interested. That person could then be engaged in something involving a little more active participation (pick a card, remember it, show it to your friends—— everyone is familiar enough with the cliched components of a card trick that they get it with minimal gesturing). Somewhat to my own surprise, everyone BUT the spectator I was directly "addressing" would tend to go quiet themselves, not wanting to break the atmostphere. From the opener I'd do a few quick & very visual coin/bill effects, if they seemed prone to tolerate the introduction of cards move into a haunted deck, then close with a torn & restored card (selected by the second-most-interested spec) & walk off as the group was processing "yeah, it's the SAME signed card."

Again, certainly not for everyone, but if you're doing stuff for fun or practice, I found this was just amazingly effective at drawing attention, maybe precisely because I didn't seem to be demanding it. People are bombarded with requests for attention all the time in the modern world, and just DOING STUFF seems to short circuit some of the automatic defense mechanisms people might deploy into a too-overt "look at this!". Going out subsequent evenings, I got the distinct sense that the folks I'd approached in silence had told their classmates about the "weird thing" that had happened a few evenings previous... I think partly because the silence had helped make it more of a "weird experience I had" as opposed to "some guy wanted to show us magic tricks."

Anyway, curious whether others have tried something along these lines & have their own ideas about effects that work especially well silent.
landmark
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Very interesting. Thanks for posting your experience.
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Dick Oslund
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Again, I was surfing the web, and found this thread. Like landmark, I think this was a very interesting post.

Thanks for sharing, normative!
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arthur stead
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Nomative, thank you for sharing this. Like Landmark and Dick, I found it to be VERY interesting.

Here’s a video of a guy who does street magic for a living, but then developed some non-magic mime skits. I thought he was fabulous.

Arthur Stead
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