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The Value of the Classics

By Brad Burt

I was thinking about how to be not just a good magical entertainer, but HOW do you get to be a GREAT magical entertainer. Over and over in my mind I examined the various magicians that I liked the best. I considered their writings and performance and thought of what it was like when they were coming 'up' in magic.

I tried to imagine what I would tell someone if they asked the following question, "Brad, if I wanted to really succeed as a magical performer what is the ONE major suggestion that you would make?"

It's a good question. It really is a GOOD question, because it doesn't mean that all the other things I would suggest need be ignored. It's a looking for an emphasis, a light to guide one from the beginning when what one wants is to succeed at making a living AS a magician.

You'll still want to take classes in Theatre Arts, dance, speech and chemistry. You'll still want to read widely in a variety of subjects and maybe learn to play a musical instrument. You'll still want to practice sleights and read poetry out loud. But, what is the ONE emphasis that I would suggest???

Learn the CLASSICS. Learn to do the Cups and Balls, the Linking Rings, Professor's Nightmare and Invisible Deck. Learn a classic routine with the Chinese Sticks and get yourself a decent 20th Century Silks and a Change Bag. Make a list culled from old timers on what they think are THE classics of magic. For close-up you have Triumph, Spellbound and almost anything else that Dai Vernon worked on.

It struck me again as I mused upon it how wonderful a trick the Invisible Deck is. It just sells and sells and sells. It just kills and kills and kills. It will NEVER not be a killer trick unless it becomes required learning in every grade school in the country. Never happen, so we're safe.

Cups and Balls and Linking Rings will ALWAYS be great tricks! They just will. Why??? Because, they are perfectly structured to fool and amaze and they have done so for millennia! Come on gang. What's better than a trick that has stood the test of time that comes in at thousands of years! How are you going to beat that?

Note: You'll beat it by watching for the NEW classics. And, they are there. Personally, the Quarter in Soda Can that Chriss Angel does will be around for ever…unless the morons get rid of the aluminum can. May it never be.

But, that makes me think of the Coin in Bottle and the 'new' classic Scotch and Soda. Color Changing knives and on and on and on. You want to be a 'great' magician? Get in touch with what went before. Read Tarbell and Greater Magic at the very least.
Thanks for reading this stuff!

It's NOT just learning the classics that's the primary point, although I think that it's an important one. It's trying to figure out WHY they became classics that's the point. What IS IT about each of these routines that is so compelling? How is it that the misdirection works or is inherent (if it is). What makes these routines what they are??? I have ALWAYS pointed out to folks that more than any other hobby I can think of, unless your hobby is nuclear physics I guess, MAGIC is a thinking persons hobby. The dull and the ignorant do NOT gravitate to magic. Even at it's simplest it takes too much thought, perception and even something like 'need' in the heart and soul of the performer to be like anything else except maybe acting or music.

Magic isn't like anything else and the tricks and routines that we all consider 'Classics' are not like any other kind of magic. Trying to figure out the 'why' of that difference can give you a 'classic' education in conjuring that will last a lifetime.

All best,
Brad Burt
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