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Topic: A Challenge for Advanced Magicians
Message: Posted by: Zion Naobi (Sep 5, 2006 09:27AM)
Hello, and thank you for reading this post. First off, let me state to all of you that read this, that the challenge I have in mind really isn't meant specifically for advanced magicians. Although they will probably have the best chance at meeting it. It is an exercise for anyone who takes magic seriously.

The challenge is really simple, and I'll state it immediately:

[i]Can you create magic purely on the basis of performance, without the use of an effect [/i]?

Honestly it is rather difficult to postulate the conditions here. In any case there should be no use of any known effects or novel variations of it, e.g. card or coin effects, no mathematical puzzles, etc. Of course you have to use SOME sort of manipulation and it’s hard to verbalize, but I would say it would be to create magic without performing something that is perceived as a magical act. The challenge is inspired by the many discussions on this board -amongst others- on the balance in magic between performance and the effect.

The way you choose to tackle the challenge can be anything, it could be trying stuff out and/or [b]sharing experiences[/b]that you had with creating magic out of nothing. It could be stories you heard from others. Or you could [b]pose thoughts, ideas or theories[/b] on how such an effect may be achieved. Anything goes.

Unfortunately the reward for the challenge lies in the exercise itself (unless someone cares to contribute), and what we learn from it. I imagine that the contributions will definitely be discussed here and that anyone participating will probably at the minimum deep in his/her understanding of what magic is about (I specifically hope that will go for me )

To get things started a few examples of when I think magic was created without the involvement of magic:

[i]In my culture there is a lot of superstition, and magic is often created at family gatherings during the times we share a great number of ghost stories, late at night. Magic happens when something suddenly moves, or makes a sound. Nothing uncommon, but to the people there at the time, there is no doubt that something supernatural has happened. [/i]

Very strong magic if you ask me. And those situations in my opinion have a lot of factors that are essential to creating the impression of 'real' magic. That is, such a mood and atmosphere I would love to induce in setting the scene for my magic.

[i]Alternatively, in the New Age scene there are those that have legends created around them. Legends that have them breathe an aura of magic. Simple things that these people do, can induce in the audience the impression of magic, when nothing at all has happened. They'll say things like: …I could feel his presence in the room…when he walked in something changed…or: …I felt like he looked right through my soul and into my heart, talking to me without ever saying a word.[/i]

The objective here is of course to come up with a method where you or anyone you observed intentionally induced an experience such as above.

I hope you find it a worthwhile challenge and that people will catch on.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 5, 2006 10:07AM)

Hold onto your left thumb and press as you imagine a waterfall...

Walk the audience through a fast phobia cure or anchoring process?

A room full of people slide from this state to that via anchors?

Now squeeze your thumb again and feel the waterfall flow backwards.

Message: Posted by: Zion Naobi (Sep 5, 2006 10:16AM)
I'm sorry Jonathan. I don't fully understand your reply. I assume it is a witty reply meant to clarify to me something about how interesting you find the challenge I've issued?

I'm afraid I'm not witty enough, could you elaborate?
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Sep 5, 2006 10:44AM)
I referenced the larger realm and cited a path through NLP
Message: Posted by: Jaz (Sep 5, 2006 04:06PM)
In the first example you mention storytelling.
This is a good way to invoke mental images and play on people's superstitions.
Sitting around a campfire and having sparks jump from it at a critcal moment of a story can be spooky.

The second example the sounds like charisma at work.

The only thing I've done is to secretly make things move at a banquet while not appearing to have any involvement.

There is a similar discussion here:
Message: Posted by: Zion Naobi (Sep 6, 2006 03:48AM)
Thank you for your replies so far. It seems like I'm not selling the idea. So I'm going to take another shot at pitching it.

@Jaz, thank you for the reference. I came across that link myself some days ago. I don't think that these threads relate to the same concept. In general they do, because both concern stripping the Performance-Effect inequality from one of its components. However where the thread you linked saught to strip it from Perfromance, I seek to strip it from effect.

How often haven't there been discussion on the factor that tips the balance most? Is it performance or is it effect? No, my challenge will not resolve the debate or provide striking evidence for either possible position. I do think however that try ing to meet this particular challenge can teach anyone a lot about creating a scene, selling an idea, selling an experience etc. Perhaps it will more for a rooky like myself. And perhaps veterans can judge on the basis of their experience that it is uninteresting.

But I'd like to give it a try anyway. So, here goes again people:

[i][b]How would you create magic purely on the basis of performance, without the use of an effect ?[/b][/i]
Message: Posted by: Paul Jester (Sep 7, 2006 01:25PM)
I'm sure magic is an effect. Without the magical effect it is just a performance... void of magic.
It is possible to affect an audience without magic, otherwise there would be no other performance arts! However to create magic is to create an effect.
Message: Posted by: Zion Naobi (Sep 11, 2006 06:27AM)
Hi, Paul. Thanks for your reply. I guess you are formally right. Because without the magical effect, what you're doing is not magic but acting instead.

It is not my stance that magic is predominantly either performance or effect. Which one has the emphasis is a complicated matter and I think it's very related to goals and interaction. For example, there are people who respond very well to being 'punked' similar to how they've seen david blaine punk them; where the emphasis seems very much on the effect. Others respond very well to elaborate presentation, and there are those who really like magic to be creepingly real, for example. As a beginner I can see that depending on the situation I'll have to learn to deal with that. Ultimately we want to create the experience of magic I think, and depending on our goals it can be awe, amazement, wonder, fear, etc. which comprises this specific experience, I think.

But that was not the point of this challenge. I wanted to place the emphasis on the performance for this specific thread, and I wanted to see what people would come up with if they had only their performance to create magic.

I thought this to be an incredible learning experience for anyone and I am really curious to see what people come up with. It doesn't matter to me if it's feasable, properly tested or whatever. To me it is about the creativity. Presented solutions always carry in them implicitly what one feels is important about magic, what they think a magic experience is, and what they think the focus should be on with presentation.

It seems that it didn't work out, but that's no problem of course. There are more ways to achieve a goal and in the future I'll probably try in different ways.
Message: Posted by: Paul Jester (Sep 11, 2006 01:15PM)
For a beginner you have an amazing insight into the artful side of magic. You seem to already understand that magic is about more than fooling people but it's about what they feel and experience. The tricks are merely tools we use to create that experience, but good tools create a better product.

Magicians tend to find as they grow that they either edge more towards the performance or more towards the trick (punk). Although it is important to read an audience and tailor what you do for them somewhat, it is also important to develop your own style. Don't worry about what your audience expects so much, do what you do and let them know what you do so when they book you they know what they're getting... I know there are people who do bizarre magic in restaurants!

To study performance away from magic is certainly important in stage work, no-one can call themselves a professional unless they can enter and exit, know how to take a bow and how to cue applause. Some of the best close-up magicians I know are actors too. Remember a magician is merely an actor playing the part of a magician.


A true magician is an artist.
Message: Posted by: airship (Sep 11, 2006 04:18PM)
Teller, of Penn & Teller, does a sketch where he leans against a lamppost, throws down his cigarette, crushes it out with his toe, takes out another cigarette, and lights it. That's all. Then he turns around and does it again, and with your new point of view, you see that everything he has done, which seems so common and trivial, wasn't really done at all. Every move is a fake, a magic trick, a skillfully executed effect. He threw down no cigarette, lit no match, etc.

Though the second pass 'reveals' the tricks behind every move, it is, without doubt, the single most mind-numbingly effective bit of 'magic' I've ever seen. Even though you walk away from it with a complete knowledge of how it was all done, you are equally convinced that you could never repeat Teller's performance, unless you had a lifetime of magic education and practice behind it, like he did.

That's magic artistry.
Message: Posted by: Zion Naobi (Sep 12, 2006 04:29AM)
Thank you for the kind words, Paul. Lukily I 'm not a newcomer to art, I am however a newcomer to magic. I find that a lot of the concepts carry over very well across disciplines. But I am still overwhelmed with the new lessons specific to magic.

At the moment I'm a little torn about what the goal in magic really is and how much is achievable. To me it can't be creating the magical experience alone. Because that is formally possible without ever using an effect, and to me that leans too much to just acting. So basically that means that I agree that magic requires the use of an effect imo.

Airship, I want to thank you for reminding me of that routine. I am personally a great fan of their work, and I do remember that as an amazing routine. I can say that to em that was probably one of the best bits of magic I 've ever witnessed myself as well, especially since I wasn't concerned with magic at that point in time. I remember that rather than thinking "wow, I will never be able to do that, how magical", I thought "There is no way that so much can happen directly in front of me, outside of my awareness". Teller expanded the boundaries of what I thought was possible, and to me that description is for a large part what a magical experience is. The experience of my mind being stretched out and opened up to things I never knew were possible before.
Message: Posted by: entity (Sep 16, 2006 10:41AM)
Zion: I think that first you have to define what an "effect" is.

If you tell a ghost story convincingly, so that those present feel goose bumps or the hair on the back of their necks standing on end, your performance of the story is the cause, and their reaction is the effect.

Magic is a relationship with the audience... There is no "effect" until it happens in their minds.

Perhaps what you are suggesting with your first post is that we attempt to create Magic without subterfuge or deception?

- entity
Message: Posted by: Zion Naobi (Sep 17, 2006 06:21AM)
Hey, entity. You are right of course. But there is the problem that it is a bit difficult a task to delineate what exactly is and is not a magical effect. I chose some poor terminology since effect could be the method as well as the conclusion.

For the time being I like your attempt in the last line of your post. No subterfuge or deception.
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Sep 17, 2006 11:51PM)
I understand what the problem is here.

In formalized definitions related to magic, there are a set of terms that have been postulated by several of the experts. Among them are the use of "effect" to mean one thing and "trick" to mean another. Now these definitions are not as terms to be used in front of non-magicians. They are a way of defining what happens when someone performs magic.

An "effect" is one of the basic things you can do. Roger Klause defines seven of them. Fitzkee has a longer list. But they are things like:

Production, Vanish, Transformation, Transposition, Penetration, Restoration, Animation, Levitation and Identification. Thought reading, Prediction and other similar ideas can also be thought of as "effects." A "trick" (in this set of definitions) is an effect performed with a specific object or set of objects. Pulling a rabbit out of a hat is a production. The vanishing hanky in a TT is obviously a vanish. Finding a selected card can be presented as an identification or a thought reading feat.

I can see that your original post did not concern these definitions.

However, this is a question that others have asked. There is an example of just such a presentation in Borodin's [i]Final Curtain[/i]. It is a story called "Vismay and Wonder." It is a standalone story that has a magical impact without actually having a "trick" or an "effect" to go along with it.

I translated this into English a while back and I have actually had the opportunity to see this performed. It is quite effective. Its chief value, though, is as a way of setting the mood of the audience. Once you have done this routine, the tricks, routines or effects that follow have a much greater impact on the audience.
Message: Posted by: Zion Naobi (Sep 19, 2006 08:51AM)
This post is spot on, Bill. Thanks to the posts of yourself, entity and others the initially very ambiguous wording of my challenge is starting to take on a more understandable form.

Moreover, the reference you've provided is a terrific example. The Teller example was already very good, but was a more indirect example. This one is more direct since there is no subterfuge or deception at all. You say that it's chief is to set the mood, allowing a greater audience impact, and with that you have uncovered my motivation behind the challenge.

As a beginner working out a powerful routine of tricks I naturally noticed that it is my own responsibility to impress people; it is not the responsibility of the trick. I like simple tricks, so in order to have a good impact with a simple trick a lot of emphasis is going to be on presentation. Well, you already said it. I started thinking: "How can I destroy people's sense of reality without using a sleight more difficult than a double lift*". And it was a small step from that thought to realizing that it can be accomplished if only the audience is in the right mood. Taking that thought to the extreme provided the thought of creating magic without deception. In posting the challenge I am looking for suggestions from people who actually have a chance at it. Who have years of experience with this.

The examples I've initially provided all entail elaborate staging and preparation, in the category of at least hours, but more likely weeks and months. As a magician I think often that is a time luxury you don't have. You have to do it in minutes. My Dad is in active in the New Age scene, and from observing him and how he convinced others of his abilities(of course he is convinced of his own as well) I'm already learning a lot. But to whip out a deck of cards and maintain that audience respect is not easy.

[i]*double lift may not be the best example since I actually consider it the most powerful and difficult magic I've ever learned, however it is generally rahter underrated and I think lots of people consider it a easy sleight. [/i]
Message: Posted by: Bill Palmer (Sep 22, 2006 03:29AM)
There are a couple of magicians in England who have made a great reputation for themselves while doing basically easy tricks. It isn't the trick that makes them popular. It's the way they sell it.

Here's a way that you can increase your skills, though. I know this works, because it's the way I did it. Figure out a routine that requires a sleight you don't know how to do. It can be a difficult one or an easy one. Then learn the sleight. Once you have learned the sleight, then use it in the routine regularly. Soon you will have the sleight and the routine down so well that both are natural for you.

And this brings up another aspect of magic. No sleight that you do should be difficult. You should practice any sleight you do to the point that it is as natural as squaring up a deck of cards. It may take as much as a year or two to master a particularly involved sleight. But once you have mastered it, you now have a new tool.

One of my aphorisms is this:

Practice until it becomes boring. Then practice until it becomes beautiful.

A lot of us stop when the job is only halfway done.

You see, magic is the Art that conceals Art. If people are aware that you are doing a move or a sleight, no matter how perfectly you do it, you aren't doing it correctly. You need to figure out what it is that makes the sleight or move look strange.

And that is a big step down the road to good magic.

One of the greatest compliments anyone has ever paid me was this. I was speaking to a friend of mine who was just starting to do a little magic. He had seen me work many times. He said, "I'm learning a little sleight of hand. Do you do any sleight of hand?"

I said, "Yes, most of the stuff I do is sleight of hand. I guess I must be doing something right."

He figured that because I am not exactly the most gifted dancer on the block that I was incapable of doing anything that required dexterity. After I showed him a couple of things, he realized that I had fooled him completely...for FIVE YEARS!

I made everything fit my way of moving.
Message: Posted by: Noel D (Sep 25, 2006 07:08PM)
Maybe I'm misinterpreting the question, but wouldn't a napkin rose count?

I do simon Lovell's routine where I walk out with a napkin and talk about prhoibition and the "white rose Café" In the end, the paper has been turned into a napkin rose and I leave the audience with "Anyone can buy you a rose, anyone can give you a rose, but only a few people on earth can make you one." as I hand the closest female spectator the rose.

It's not "magic" (nothing impossible happens) but I close my show with it because of how strong it is.

Seeing as to how I'm a mostly comedic performer, this is a bit out of character (A bit. The "monologue" is fairly comedic.)but it's still the most talked about thing I do in my show.

Therefore, my closer consists of folding a napkin while telling a story, and this beats out a chop cup, ring and rope, sponge bals, and even the miser's dream for best effect.

If that isn't magc, I don't know what is.
Message: Posted by: nbps05 (Nov 14, 2006 10:11PM)
Muscle reading?
Message: Posted by: Tomer (Jan 19, 2007 08:36PM)
I think that it is possible to do magic without doing an effect.
What is magic? think about it for a sec... Magic is having an effect on someone, with something that is not ordinary.. unpredictable.

I once took from someone a bill, teared it up into an ashtray, and burned it.
I waited a few seconds for him to react.. and brought out a lemon and a knife from my coat pockets. I told him that he has a surprise inside the lemon.
He started cutting up the lemon... and what did he found inside?
No... there was nothing inside. He said: "there's nothing here..."
I said: "well, I said you'll be surprised, you wouldn't be as surprised if your bill was there right?"
I then took out my wallet, and gave him a diffrent bill with the same value.

Now, he did experience magic, he did experience an effect. It was something that wasn't oridnary, who takes a bill and ripps it up?
Ovcorse I switched his bill into a paper bill that I've printed and burned that up, and had his bill in my pocket to the rest of the "trick".

Point is, magic doesn't have to have a real effect, something doesn't have to happen. Sometimes when nothing happens, the magic happens.

Message: Posted by: harris (Mar 10, 2007 01:58PM)
How about bringing in a clear bottle with screw on lid. Tell your group that inside is a vile smelling liquid. Unscrew the top and .....

This was done back in the 70's at the college I attended....

Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Mar 12, 2007 06:52AM)
How are we doing on defining the terms:
magic, performance and effect ?
Message: Posted by: Andy the cardician (Mar 13, 2007 08:50PM)

Great question. My "impromptu" definition would be

Effect is the what the trick is about, mainly from a technical (handling) view. For instance bill to lemon requires the following steps . . . etc.

Performance is how you present the effect. This includes the patter, the body language, the timing etc.

Magic is the feeling the spectator experiences if you perform an effect right.

Message: Posted by: Chris Bruce (Mar 15, 2007 09:08PM)
On 2007-03-13 21:50, Andy the cardician wrote:

Effect is the what the trick is about, mainly from a technical (handling) view. For instance bill to lemon requires the following steps . . . etc.


It sounds like what you actually mean is method. The method is what the trick is about from a technical/handling view. Effect is the impossibility the audience experiences.


Performance is how you present the effect. This includes the patter, the body language, the timing etc.


Actually, how you present the effect is called the presentation, not performance. The perfomance is when a handling of an effect is combined with a presentation, for an audience.
Message: Posted by: Zion Naobi (Mar 16, 2007 09:31AM)
I think it's important to be talking about the same things here, but I would refrain from making things too formal. We should be able to get there based on our intuitive notions of what those terms mean.

However, magic is central to my original post, and probably the hardest to define of the three. I should at least take a crack at defining it.

I would define magic as: "what is experienced when the boundaries are challenged of that which is held to be possible for an individual."

It's been a while since my original post. I just reread it, and I reconsidered my point of getting by on an intuitive notion of what an effect is. An adequate definition of an effect is very necessary.

I'll get back on that.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Mar 16, 2007 09:40AM)
On 2007-03-13 21:50, Andy the cardician wrote:
...Effect is the what the trick is about, mainly from a technical (handling) view. ...[/quote]

How about using "effect" to mean "the story as one would like the audience members to tell their friends later". ?

As to "from a technical (handling)"... perhaps that is more about the stage work notions of blocking or scripting?
Message: Posted by: Zion Naobi (Mar 16, 2007 09:48AM)
Actually I like that definition very much. I think it captures what the effect is really nicely.

Despite the lack of a definition of what a performance is, we can now rephrase what I was hinting at in my original question to:

"Can you create a magical experience of which it can't be related how it was induced"

I'm not sure if that sentence is still English. And perhaps the definitions are a little too strong, but I believe we're making great way here.

A possible weaker version could be:

"Can you create a magical experience of which it can't be related exactly how it was induced"
Message: Posted by: Andy the cardician (Mar 17, 2007 05:50AM)
On 2007-03-16 10:40, Jonathan Townsend wrote:

How about using "effect" to mean "the story as one would like the audience members to tell their friends later". ?


effect - the magical experience from a spectator's view?
Message: Posted by: Andy the cardician (Mar 19, 2007 06:30PM)
Chris, Jonathan,

re-reading my post it is now very clear to me how badly I expressed it. My learning is not to do an "impromptu" definition.

Apologies and thanks for the patients.

Message: Posted by: dandanmagicman (Apr 24, 2007 08:29PM)
I recently told a few of my high school drama students that our theatre was haunted. Within two weeks, we had multiple sightings of a ghost. It has since become absolute truth that a ghost haunts the theatre in the guise of a clown or small boy. It is experienced as real, and therefore, in a sense, IS real. I fabricated the original story. And to my knowledge no ghost had ever haunted our theatre before I began the lie. But now, the lie has become truth. This seems to me to be magic. I have conjured a spirit, without the use of anything but the imaginations of some very creative young people.
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (May 7, 2007 07:57AM)
On 2007-04-24 21:29, dandanmagicman wrote:...But now, the lie has become truth. This seems to me to be magic. I have conjured a spirit, without the use of anything but the imaginations of some very creative young people.

Congratulations, you have performed an act of magic. What did you learn? What will you do wish to do with that new found knowledge?
Message: Posted by: Rik Chew (May 8, 2007 12:39PM)
Not sure if its the same kind of thing, but I've always wondered if in a copper/silver coin transposition, you could have the silver in one hand, copper in the other. Close and open them, and have the audience believe they changed.
No idea how this could be done, but I'm sure its possible.
Good thread, enjoying the read.