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Topic: Sound vs. Silence
Message: Posted by: pyth (Mar 15, 2021 02:22PM)
I’ve been an amateur/novice member of Magic Café for several years, but this is my first post (I’m a long way from that magical 50th post!). I have a question that has been nagging me lately; I’d be very curious as to what various thoughts might be on the topic. Namely, silence vs. sound during an effect, especially with a device or apparatus.

I recently purchased Magic Wagon’s Meridian Ring Cabinet (MRC); there is discussion as to how to mitigate the (slight) sound produced by the mechanism. But I wonder why the absence of sound is seen to be almost universally desirable in these situations. Certainly I get it if the sound reveals the secret (e.g., the snap of a magnet’s attraction, the boing of a spring, ...); but in other cases the sound is not especially revelatory. MRC seems to be one of these: the sound is a bit delicate and the mage might say something like “As the door is closing, odd forces are afoot in the cabinet.”

There are a few examples that I am aware of where the consequences of breaking physical laws are acknowledged. For example, in Tenyo’s Crystal Cleaver, the instructions even state: “”Don’t worry … because you can ask your audience if they heard the sound when the sword penetrated the ring.” But perhaps my favorite is one of the ever-artful videos of Simon Corneille: https://www.martinsmagic.com/videos/ghost-box-by-magic-wagon/
In this effect, violating natural laws definitely has side effects (here visual and tactile, not sound).

Speaking a bit “philosophically,” it seems that the magical upsetting of the laws of physics (!) might be expected to have consequences and side-effects, apart from the desired outcome. Now, admittedly, during such a momentous effect, silence is itself a bizarre accompaniment; but I wonder why it has become regarded as the almost universal goal. It seems that there could be a continuum with respect to sound:
silence >> subtle/eerie sounds (maybe even pleasant) >> cacophony.

Are y’all aware of many magic effects where sound is to be appreciated as an accompaniment to breaking physics laws? Do you have opinions as to why silence is the de facto default?

-- Paul
Message: Posted by: magicalaurie (Mar 15, 2021 03:56PM)
I'm not familiar with the effect, but theoretically, I would suggest it may be because one doesn't want to allow for any potential mechanical explanation, and thus
I think one would be ill advised to mention, “As the door is closing, odd forces are afoot in the cabinet.”

Nice topic. There are many interesting facets of sound in misdirection, I think.
Message: Posted by: funsway (Mar 15, 2021 04:30PM)
Most performers desire or thrive on applause or outcries or shock or surprise.
If the goal is to shock or surprise this is good, I guess. But I have always questioned immediate outburst as a measure of "must be magic."

I realize that the theatrical "tension and release" can lead to an energy built up in need of release to, so spontaneous applause or outburst
is better than breaking things or clobbering another spectator.

So, sound accompanying a magic moment can signal that it is OK to make noise outburst, and can even seen as the cause of the magic.
There is no reason to assume that an inexplicable phenomenon should not be noisy.

However, when one encounters inexplicable phenomena in everyday life it is often in silence - perhaps because the senses are overwhelmed and noise is cancelled out.

There have been a couple of time during a performance in which the result has been so profound that silence is the audience response. Rare, but powerful.
One cannot plan on this occurring, but should be prepared to recognize the tremendous compliment.

It may be a matter of framing and orchestration to have the audience desire magic to occur so desperately that silence is the expected response.

At least, it can be the immediate response - then the standing and cheers.. Does this mean silence is the default? No. But it is a valid response as much as noise.
Message: Posted by: tommy (Mar 16, 2021 02:00AM)
Talking - inadvertent noises made by the props which can give away the trick.

Message: Posted by: pyth (Mar 16, 2021 01:44PM)
These are very interesting remarks, just the kind of "high level" or "meta-" remarks that I was hoping for. I love these kinds of conversations.
I do still wonder if there are many effects that do rely on sounds to deepen the mystery -- the mystery of over-riding the rules of physics!
Message: Posted by: pyth (Mar 16, 2021 01:46PM)
It did occur to me that there are a lot of tricks whose presentation does acknowledge side-effects to violating physics -- side -effects apart from the main purpose of the illusion. For example, flashes and fire are not uncommon. Also smoke.
But how 'bout sound?!
Message: Posted by: magicalaurie (Mar 16, 2021 03:13PM)
I've been thinking about mentioning this one elsewhere, recently, but, since you ask, it seems an interesting fit here, "obviously" :) :

Message: Posted by: pyth (Mar 16, 2021 04:43PM)
Very cool, that tuning fork! Thanks for posting it!

There's another clever monte-style trick called Beep something that I've recently seen advertised. It's "Magic Beep" (by Kim Andersen (Pegani)):
Message: Posted by: Jonathan Townsend (Mar 17, 2021 11:32AM)
Are you asking about sound effects as cues for the magic? Routines where the magician interacts with a movie or recorded audio tend to use sound effects. Outside theatrical direction (or clowning) people have used squeakers in their sponge ball routines and sound effects makers for ages. One guy make a salt shaker which squeaks. Practical concerns of setup, timing, basic production expenses...

There's some discussion about whether there should be a clink when coins travel in a coins across routine. John Kennedy's coins to glass/cup uses sound to announce the arrival of a coin.

On the pure magic side of the question - Daryl offered a trick where the sound effects made by two toys transposed. :)
Message: Posted by: Ray Pierce (Mar 18, 2021 10:51PM)
[quote]On Mar 15, 2021, funsway wrote:
Most performers desire or thrive on applause or outcries or shock or surprise.
I f the goal is to shock or surprise this is good, I guess. But I have always questioned immediate outburst as a measure of "must be magic." [/quote]

This is an interesting perspective. My personal goal is to render the viewer so dumbstruck and bewildered, they are unable to form a sentence. That being said, please understand that applause is professional currency that is used for the buyer. It is to prove to them they made a good choice in hiring you. If you’re not performing professionally then it is up to you what reaction you desire. As a professional, it is a pavlovian response that is conditioned and built up during the performance for two reasons. One was for the buyer as mentioned above. The second is to create an understanding in the audience as to how good you were or more correctly how much they enjoyed the show. They more they applaud, the more they typically will look back on the experience as positive. If they applaud more, they will simply remember it being better. Yes, these are purely commercial considerations... which, if you plan on doing this for a living, are a vital part of success.

Silence, on an artistic level, it totally different. As a storyteller... we must understand the balance of sound and silence, light and shadow. There are times when silence as a storytelling tool is verity powerful when used correctly. It is yet another tool in our arsenal. Use it well.
Message: Posted by: funsway (Mar 19, 2021 05:36AM)
Thanks, Ray, for putting my thought in perspective. Yes, certainly, if one's goal is impressing the booking agent then enthusiastic applause is important. If I were trying to make a living from performing on stage I would study those techniques. My interest in the "best possible magic effect" is more theoretical than practical, or an ideal goal in designing an effect. The ideal objective of having each effect produce a "must be magic" memory is impractical and unwise. It can overload the "probably impossible" limit and even create fear and a denial that the event ever happened. So, a balance is struck between Schneider's Clown, Theatrical and Virtual magic effects for the purpose of "entertain" over "best." Even Al has said that folks seem to prefer effects they think they cna figure out over strong magic. Yet, if one sets "magical" or "puzzle" or "gotcha" at the high standard, how does one ever achieve the "must be magic" response ever?

So, rather than striving for the "best possible magic" I want the "best magic possible." This means adaptation to audience and setting not possible for a large, ticket buying public. You obviously can handle that type of audience, and I gather that some times instant applause is not the reaction - later on they do "join the crowd" in a mass response. For smaller audiences such as parlor settings (even for pay) I think one can and should view effect selections and framing to allow for a couple of effects to produce a "other than applause result." Again, it is a routine design consideration rather than an objective. I just questions those who claim they provide "strong magic" when the only standard used is noise. More and more I see post talking about an effect being "magical" (sorta like magic) with guesses as to what the audience is thinking. Perhaps it is a product of watching performances on Youtube. Can "must be magic" ever be the response?
Message: Posted by: pyth (Mar 19, 2021 12:50PM)
I think that I must be incredibly gullible: I have that "must be magic" experience a lot! I'd be ashamed to admit what I'm about to say, except that I've seen others mention the same thing basically. Namely, as a modest collector (and not really a performer), I sometimes will buy an effect because to my enfeebled brain it does seem like it "must be magic." I want to see how it possibly could have been done. ... And this leads to another issue: I LOVE seeing magic (always have). I've recently had to concede that my true calling in the magic world is to be a perpetual audience member! I should never try to actually be a magician. Not that I'm ineffective when I do a small performance among friends; rather, it is almost always the case that learning an effect is a huge let down, a big disappointment as I discover that the effect is not magic at all, but a clever trick! Pretty naive, right?! ... Now of course I know that effects are not "real" magic and involve a trick or gimmick of some kind. It's just that learning that trick is often very disappointing. ... There are a few that are SO clever that learning them does not disappoint; but they're rare imho. Mostly I'm left with the feeling expressed in a Peggy Lee song: "Is that all there is?"!

I'd consider giving up magic altogether, except as an audience member. But what I do find that I also love are conversations such as this one, more about "philosophical" (if that's not too pretentious a term) issues surrounding magic. For example, in another conversation with a magician friend, he pointed out that the secrecy so important to magic is not so much to protect the magician or the effect; it's to protect the audience! That is, to not demolish their sense of awe and, well, the magical!
Message: Posted by: mir11 (Mar 31, 2021 04:58PM)
Wow, this is amazing insight.

"secrecy so important to magic is not so much to protect the magician or the effect; it's to protect the audience! That is, to not demolish their sense of awe and, well, the magical!"
Message: Posted by: mir11 (Mar 31, 2021 05:00PM)
And Pyth I must say the original questions was also very illuminating, there is a saying half the knowledge is in the questions itself.