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Naturalness and the Strength of Effect

by Brad Burt

An interesting topic arises in magic from time to time. The difference in the Elmsley Count between the 'in the hands' method and the 'at the finger tips' method.

I agree that the in the hands method appears more natural. But, want to know something you wouldn't think of unless you tried it? It's completely unnatural as far as anyone not a magician would do. Hand someone five cards. Tell them to count them. See what happens with at least ten people who know nothing about magic or card handling. It is very enlightening.

This was a great lesson for me on card handling. Ofter WHAT appears natural to both we the magic folk and to the spectator(s) is not in fact very natural at all! I decided that naturalness in magic was not always function of what would happen NATURALLY, but what the mind expects and will accept as natural. Thus 'natural' isn't always what would be 'natural' in the authentic sense, but in an organic sense that the mind accepts AS natural without thinking more of it.

What that means in some cases that there are moves that can be done exactly as if the majority of folks would do them in real life and yet not 'appear' to be natural!

Some of the 'prettiest' card magic is so UN-natural that it's main attraction is not so much that it is 'magical', but that it is 'neat' and fun to watch. As the naturalness of any routine goes up, the more magical it will appear to the layman.

Consider the absolute most natural magic trick of all time: The Invisible Deck. Look at the reductionist perfection of the trick: Spectator names ANY card. The deck is removed from the box and the cards spread to find ONE card reversed. Card is the one named. I grant this is my opinion, but when you have sometimes done magic tricks for layfolk 5-8 hours a day for days at a time you start to pick up on certain things.

Invisible Deck is perfect. Perfect. Every attempt to 'do' it with a normal deck falls short of what Burling Hull invented so many years ago. I say this only to stress that doing it WITH a normal ungaffed deck in no way makes the effect better. In every case there are moves added that obscure if only a little tiny bit that end product.

I'm not arguing, by the way, that we shouldn't do the fancy neat-o stuff we all do. Nope, I'm just suggesting that the further you move towards surrounding ANY routine with unnecessary moves and flourishes the less magical a routine will appear.

What's it all mean? Frankly, I'm not sure exactly. I know that for myself I have always liked magic that simply seemed to appear from the objects manipulated instead of the manipulation itself. Best,
Brad Burt
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