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Topic: The paradox of "naturalness" in magic
Message: Posted by: ViciousCycle (Feb 10, 2007 10:31AM)
When I was a child and went to a magic shop, the typical pocket magic trick looked obviously “fake’. It looked like a strange plastic toy and didn’t resemble anything that a spectator would see in their everyday life. When puberty kicked in, I abandoned all of these toys and didn’t touch magic for a long time.

When I walk into a magic shop now, the typical small pocket magic trick that one can buy looks very different. One is working with or appears to be working with normal objects.

For example, when I was a kid, the typical penetration trick I had was the one where you had this plastic apparatus that allowed you to penetrate its plastic “glass” with a pencil. The plastic apparatus resembled nothing other than a gimmick. By contrast, the modern versions of this pocket trick require no fake-looking plastic apparatus. I.e. One can penetrate a coin, bill, or card with a pen, and everything looks “normal”. The penetration trick that I owned as a kid was one that I quickly outgrew, whereas the penetration trick that I own now offers more challenges: how natural can I make it look? How well can I practice my handling and sleights so that it appears that I am doing something impossible right in front of someone’s eyes? Even if I put aside this particular trick, it lets me practice fundamental skills, so I can’t as readily outgrow it.

What role does “naturalness” play in the tricks that you are drawn towards?
Message: Posted by: BrianMillerMagic (Feb 10, 2007 10:39AM)
I personally believe that magicians will be forever striving toward "natural" objects and movements. That is the heart of impromptu magic and using borrowed objects, the impossibility is implicit. However on some level have to think to myself, "but we have no problem whipping out a deck of cards?" How many people that aren't magicians carry around a deck of cards? Show of hands...not many. What about when we take out a couple sponge balls or a silk? These items aren't natural things to carry around either - but we get away with using them why? Because the people that we perform for know that we are magicians. If they didn't know we were a magician they simply wouldn't buy it!

So at what point does a random object that a magician pulls out stop being natural? I guess we all have to answer for ourselves. I mean, we're probably all in agreement that the plastic pencil-through window gimmick isn't fooling anybody, but there are any apparatus' that do not look quite so childish, and yet are equally if not more random and gimmicked. So where is that line that we draw?

In response to your question of how to make your handlings seem more natural, a Jay Sankey quote (and all Sankey-haters can ignore this part of my post) comes immediately to mind,

"Don't make a move of it!!!"

Your actions and movements should match your words and presentation. No sudden, jerky moves. Don't speed up when executing a sleight (see the thread about Biggest Mistakes of a Beginner). You should try to only be the catalyst that allows the magic to happen.
Message: Posted by: MagiCanada (Feb 10, 2007 12:04PM)
I wonder what IS an everyday object for a person. For me sponge balls real ARE everyday object. I've always got them on me - along with a lot of other things.

As a magician I may think of sponge balls as NOT everyday because my mom or sister may not carry them around. They really are innocent enough though!

If I pull out a pen or piece of string from my pocket - what does the audience think? I bet you anything they don't think that "those are some pretty nice looking everyday objects." I'm sure most people wouldn't carry a pen or piece or string - just like they wouldn't carry sponge balls or cards.

Maybe our perception of "everyday" is skewed. For a magician a pack of cards, rope, and sponge balls, etc, are "everyday objects." These ARE NORMAL things - for a MAGICIAN. People don't question them.

If you're concerned about being natural and normal - don't worry. Just don't use an obviously childish gimmicked looking object to do magic with.

If you use the cards that you ALREADY had on you and you BELIEVE they are "usual everyday" objects - your audience will too.

Just let the magic happen - natural, like breathing.
Message: Posted by: BrianMillerMagic (Feb 10, 2007 12:15PM)
On 2007-02-10 13:04, MagiCanada wrote:
Maybe our perception of "everyday" is skewed. For a magician a pack of cards, rope, and sponge balls, etc, are "everyday objects." These ARE NORMAL things - for a MAGICIAN. People don't question them.

Precisely! Exactly what I was getting at.
Message: Posted by: Jaz (Feb 10, 2007 03:44PM)
As an amateur, and someone who likes impromptu type magic, I prefer props that are common, or appear to be common, everyday objects.
What people percieve as a common object depends on factors such as thier occupation, objects that are common to their workplace, found in a restaurant, bar, home or whatever.

I like elastic band tricks. These they are not common in my environment and I have been questioned as to why they're on my wrist. However, using them to secure something such as a wallet is more natural.
The same applies to odd coins. If I give a decent reason for my having them then all is well.
Normally I carry very few props, all common looking and I never carry a deck of cards.

Keep in mind that I'm talking about impromptu magic.

When doing a magic act, it's different. I don't have any problems with using things like sponge balls, Okito Boxes, my own deck, etc, etc.

To me, a natural handling means doing moves with ease, smoothly and confidently. Not doing things like laypeople do.
Message: Posted by: DStachowiak (Feb 10, 2007 05:18PM)
Brian's point about carrying a deck of cards is well taken. Although carrying around a deck may not be ordinary, it's still important that the deck itself be perceived as ordinary. This also goes for the Half Dollars and Silver Dollars I carry around.

I am not a big fan of handing props out to be examined and approved of. It slows down the effect and invites unwelcome speculation. I do however, try to find ways of letting the spectators handle the props in the course of the effect. This is a way of showing them "ordinary(?)" without making a big deal out of it.

Rubber bands (AKA elastics, or to some of you Pennsylvanians, "gum bands") can be wrapped around a few letters or a wallet in your pocket, if you feel like you need an excuse to carry them.

I tend to agree with Jaz, that it's more importtant to strive for ease and confidence in performing. This isn't the same for everyone. Slydini used extravagant gestures and facial expressions, but seemed perfectly natural when he did, because that was the way he communicated and acted even when he was not performing Magic.
Message: Posted by: Habu (Feb 10, 2007 06:13PM)
I feel that in an impromptu performance, really impromptu or something you arrange, the objects lend credibility to your skill if they are what the spectators perceive to be every day objects at hand.

If the show is not perceived by the spectators to be impromptu then the objects/ props in your show do not need to be seen as everyday objects unless you are trying to convince them that this is the case.

Many people are fascinated by the objects involved with magic, so if something looks like a special item it adds interest...and even in impromptu exhibits if you make something "appear" be it a card, coin, thimble or sponge ball, you have already introduced it as being special, magical.
Message: Posted by: gaddy (Feb 11, 2007 12:32AM)
I think this topic is in the wrong section. This is definitely one for the philosophy of magic section.

I'm of two minds about this subject. I read and now use the Ron Bauer routine for the Egg Bag, a routine that stresses the peculiarity of, and the quality of, the bag.

To paraphrase Bauer: 1. The public has not accepted or even *recognized* the magic community's movement towards minimalism with regards to our props. 2. Magicians are plagued by the perception by others that our art does not have high quality production value (this goes a long way towards explaining why magicians pay rates are usually so low!).

So... While it's true that gold gilt production tubes and sequin covered zig-zag girl boxes just don't cut it anymore (if they ever really did!) I believe that a good quality prop, even one that a spectator takes to be strange, unusual or even (dare I say it...) "magical" can enhance an effect.

In Bizarre Magic props/gimmicks are used extensively, and given the proper presentation no one even challenges my performances because of the props.
Message: Posted by: Josh the Superfluous (Feb 11, 2007 07:38AM)
I used to do Magic Makers disc escape. Which was a brass tube and some small brass discs. I lost a part of my set. When I went to my local dealers, all they had was the new improved, faceted and scored, gold plated version. Although neither prop looked like an everyday object, I decided to find an older model on line, because of the simplicity of design.

For the most part, I don't want props that appear to be made solely for an effect. The penetration frame you mentioned is a good example. Jardin Ellis Ring, Okito Coin Box even Cups and Balls cups, all have a simplicity and relationship with similar normal items (a bridle ring, box, and cup).

When I perform with half dollars, people seem to have an added interest because of their unusualness, particularly children.
Message: Posted by: ViciousCycle (Feb 11, 2007 10:42AM)
On 2007-02-11 08:38, Josh the Superfluous wrote:
For the most part, I don't want props that appear to be made solely for an effect.

Yes, the best artifice doesn't look like artifice. This is something that a good con artist knows... an expert Three Card Monte player looks like they're pretty bad at the game... which is how they manage to fleece people. Magicians have more benign reasons for making their artifice appear natural, but the techniques overlap.

I'm interested by your description of artifice objects that seem so simple as to be beyond scrutiny. The elegant-looking cups used in some cups and balls routines are pleasing to the eye, and yet, they still look like cups. Many cup and ball routines rely on no gimmickry with the cups whatsoever. So a person can inspect the cups all day without ever being able to find a gimmick. Paradoxically, using ungimmicked cups that look slightly out of the ordinary may provide a bit of misdirection from where the real magic is taking place.