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spfranz
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A post in the coin section had this to say:

"Thirty years ago, coin matrix was THE trick that every magician did.
But even then it bothered me:
What was this supposed to mean?
Why are the coins laid out in a square?"

Which made me think of a discussion that I had a while back on another board.

Why is it that we need motivation for an effect? I don't mean motivation for a move (that should be obvious), but rather for the effect itself. Jugglers don't need some kind of motivation for what they are doing, they do it because they can and most other people can't. It's entertaining because people are amazed by what the juggler can do.

I wonder if that's part of the reason that the public seemed to like Blaine so much. He didn't have any motivation for his effects, he did them because he could.

Just thought I'd throw this out there and see what all of you wise people thought.

Scott

P.S. I'm in no way picking on Peter for his post, I think the world of his opinions and would like to hear his thoughts on this matter as well.
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Jeb Sherrill
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Well I'll tell you Scott, it really is a tough question. For all the hours of time we put in on this kind of thing, the audience probably puts in about...well...none. The fact is that Dustin Hoffman can spend six months in a prison, learning to be a crazed inmate, and people will all flock to see Sylvester Stalone say "yo" and shoot a big gun.

Motivation is something we do as artists and it's not always a defendable stance. There are people that go out there and do tricks just to do tricks and people love them (what can I say, the tricks look cool). There are others who put entire story lines behind their work (bordering on plays) and people may or may not give it the time of day.

What a lot of it comes down to is; are they entertaining? It's very hard to say what is entertaining and what isn't and I've heard stories from a variety of magicians that utterly disagree, despite the fact that they all have audience reactions to back up their points. Perhaps the motivation behind a magician who does magic just to do magic (like a juggler juggling) is that he is playing a "magician". Some seem able to pull it off and others can't.

Motivation is a tough thing to pin down after all. Some magicians seem to do have automatically and are unaware of it. Others spend hours on motivation and come out with junk. I'm big into "magic theory" myself, and let's just say it's had its ups and downs. If I follow it too closely I'll never do anything and if I stray too far I'm not happy with my work.

I think any of us that think they have the answers are probably kidding ourselves, but I know I'll always enjoy discussing it.

Sable
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Stephen Long
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Motivation used to bother me aswell...
Until I got too bogged down with it and stopped worrying about it.

Take the elmsley count - if there really are four cards (for example) then the natural thing to do would be to fan them or to lay them down on the table.
Where's the motivation for counting them the way you do?

A similar thing with the (I forget who's) "Cannibals" card effect.
If the card that has been "eaten" truly has disappeared then why show the audience the cards in this strange arrangement (the asccanio spread)?
If the card truly had gone, why would the magician not simply fan the cards or lay them on the table?

As for the Matrix, what other position would you lay four coins down in?
You have a choice of quadrilaterals; a square seems to be the most logical...

Motivation is a tricky one.
But I think it is only the magicians that bother themselves with it.
It is all the same to laymen.
If you have no motivation, then simply look like you have one and they will rarely question it.
This is in my experience.
Though others may (and probably will) disagree.
And I can see why.
Only recently did I take my side of the question.
I will probably be re-convinced before a week is over.

Gonz
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Peter Marucci
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The issue about the matrix, Gonz, is: Why lay the coins out in the first place; not, why lay them out in a square.
Yes, motivation IS necessary. As Scott may have inadvertently pointed out, jugglers don't have any motivation for what they do; exactly my point: we are NOT jugglers (although there is nothing wrong with jugglers!); we are magicians and, as such, should not be presenting something that says, in essence: "Ha, ha; I can do this and you can't," which is really what unmotivated magic is doing.
We need motivation because, otherwise, what we are doing makes no sense (it may make sense to us but not to the audience; and, yes, you may get applause, but it's "pity applause".)
Whatever popularity Blaine has, comes -- I suggest -- in spite of his style, rather than because of it.
Just as the punch line of a joke isn't funny by itself (you need the rest of the joke to set it up), so magic isn't entertaining unless it's set up (usually by motivation).
Now, a gazillion people will post, saying that they do magic without trying to motivate it and audiences love them.
Okay; just remember:
If ignorance is bliss, these people are living in paradise!
Smile
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Peter Marucci
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Tom Cutts
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Ah, Matrix. Poor misguided, misunderstood Matrix. The original, Schneider's, had motivation for the layout of cards and coins. Magicians have, since then, "Improved it worser."

Yea, Peter. Unmotivated "magic" 'tis but a cunning array of stunts. Meaningfully motivated magic is, well, magic; real and true.

Why did you write that song? "I dunno, just felt like it."

Why did you write that song?
"I wrote it to express my frustration over the system."
"I wrote it to get people dancing."
"I wrote it because it was inside of me just busting to get out."

Motivation is meaning. Once the "stunt" is over only the meaning remains.

If there is no meaning..... Smile
spfranz
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The reason that I bring this issue up is because I'm torn about it. I can see and understand both sides. So, I'm going to play devil's advocate (because it's fun).

When is the last time you heard a lay person talk about a magician that they saw and talk about the motiviation or presentation? I've heard other magicians talk about it quite a bit, but I don't think I've ever had someone come up to me and say "I saw this magician the other day, and he did this wonderful trick where 4 guys were on an island and they ...". It's always "I saw this magician the other day and he did this trick where he had 4 cards and they ...". Unless you're doing Sam The Bellhop or something similar where the story is the trick, I don't think they remember or care.

Scott
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Jeb Sherrill
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Scott,
I think there's a lot of validity to that. I think, what a lot of motivation oriented magicians, like myself, ultimately hate about magic without motivation, is in fact its motivation. You see there really isn't any such thing as NO motivation.

Those who appear to lack it are usually saying inwardly, "I can do magic and you can't. Ha, haha , haha." Peter made this point earlier. I have seen magicians with very winning attitudes and a good sense of humour about themselves who manage to pull it off without that kind of motivation, but it's tough. I can't copy that style and it wouldn't fit me anyway.

On the other hand, I've often found motivation that overpowers the tricks. Stories, for instance, that make me lose what is happening, or have nothing to do with what is happening. Stories are good, if done right, because they take that edge off magic (as I've heard it put before), and add entertainment and that wonderful “motivation” we speak of. (though it’s not the only way of course).

I'm from the Cardini school of magic, where at least in my stage work, I like the magic to just kind of happen. I find in my close-up work that I do a similar thing. You see it's odd, if you just do straight magic, it tends to look like sleight of hand. If you do magic with "certain" motivations, it tends to look more like magic.

Tom’s approach is nice, because he often compares his magic with other art forms. I think this probably helps his motivation. Of course not all magicians will do it that way and they will have their own forms of motivation.

Keep in mind also, that when Peter and I hear someone say that a magician's magic has no motivation, we probably have certain picture in our heads of what that means. It's possible that we'd just have to see his performance to see what motivation he's using.

In the end you're quite right Gonz, it is the trick they'll remember. But the motivation helps that trick come across well or poorly.

Did that make any sense? I think I was babbling.

Sable
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Peter Marucci
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Sable refers to the Cardini school of magic, and that is a good reference point.
Dick Cardini played a slighly inebriated gentleman who was somewhat befuddled by all these magic things that kept happening (appearing cigarttes, cards, balls, etc.)
And that was, indeed, the motivation, the logic, or the thread from which hung the magic.
Scott says: "When is the last time you heard a lay person talk about a magician that they saw and talk about the motiviation or presentation?"
Well, when was the last time you heard a moviegoer talk about the music on the soundtrack of a film s/he had just seen?
But they certainly would have commented if there had been none!
Same with magic; the spectator may not even notice the motivation; but, again, s/he will certainly notice if it is not there -- and that will usually be to the detriment of the performer.
cheers,
Peter Marucci
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Jeb Sherrill
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Quote:
the spectator may not even notice the motivation; but, again, s/he will certainly notice if it is not there -- and that will usually be to the detriment of the performer.


This is a very good point. If the motivation is poor, then it's just like bad acting or bad presentation; people may not notice what is off, but they'll know something is off. For some reason they just enjoyed that "other" magician from last week better than this one.

"Why?"

"I don't know, he was just annoying for some reason."

It's basically true of all performing arts.

Sable
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Tom Cutts
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When was the last time you heard someone say "The tricks were really great but his motivation just wasn't there.

Motivation is the invisible means to the end...magic.
Stephen Long
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I see...
I think I was looking at this subject on a more specific level.

I understand everyone's points here, but we seem to be drifting towards presentation rather than motivation.
Which may be fine.
Are the two interchangeable?
They certainly seem to overlap.

If we are talking about motivation in general, then it IS, on a basic level, the presentation - what you say and how you present your magic.
Isn't it?
Un-confuse me here, someone...

Gonz
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Thomas Wayne
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When an actor says to a director, "What's my motivation?", what he's REALLY asking is: "Why on earth would My character do what the script says he does?" The idea is if the actor knows why his character is behaving a certain way or committing a certain act, then the actor can better portray his character in a believable manner.

In magic we often have to do things that might not ring true, in order to accomplish that "secret something" that makes the trick work. For example, why on earth would you put the giant die into the hat prior to placing it into the die box? To prove it fits... to show where it ordinarily resides...? Or, why would you turn the top half of the deck face up when performing a slip-force? To display the card ABOVE their "selection"... to use that half to tap on the talon, showing where their "selection" is...?

Motiviation is that reason - real or contrived... articulated, implied or inferred - that justifies our overt actions during a performance. For example, if you need to go to your pocket to ditch a torn bit of card, your motivation might be that you are retrieving a cigarette lighter.

The greatest error that many magicians make - regarding motivation - is to think that they must verbally explain or narrate every move they make, in order for the audience to understand (and believe) the innocence of their actions. In reality, such self-conscious patter usually RAISES the audience's suspicions, even if they can't exactly say why.

Normal behavior involves doing common, casual things without bothering to explain them to the people you're with; in the same way, it is much wiser to learn to choreograph your actions so that the audience can understand what you're doing without that suspicious narration that may somehow comfort YOU, but raises a red flag with them.

Regards,
Thomas Wayne
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Jeb Sherrill
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Thomas gives a very thorough description here, (and by the way Gonz, we were off the subject a bit).

Thomas illustrates well, why "good" motivation is so important. If I'm going to my pocket to ditch something and I'm thinking to myself "I need to ditch this", it will show in my actions. The reason for a lot of stories in magic is that it gives reasons for moves that might be unnatural and in turn give us the motivation we need.

Of course on a more basic level, when we are pretending to put an object in our other hand, we must really believe that we are doing it (or be saying it to ourselves anyway, not in words, but we see ourselves doing it).

Therefore, yes, motivation and presentation are very intertwined, but one just kind of leads to the other. It really is a fascinating subject when you get immersed in it.

Sable
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Peter Marucci
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Excellent overview by Thomas, in the above post.
To be believable, the magician must know why he's doing something and be able to communicate that "why" to the audience (not necessarily verbally).
Just like the actor in Thomas' post, motivation lays the groundwork on which the presentation is built.
Oh, sure; there are performers who will walk on stage with a bunch of rings and link them together with no thought as to what the audience must be thinking.
These performers will argue that they are doing "a classic" or doing a trick in the "classic" way.
What they are REALLY doing is being lazy, and not thinking the effect through.
Okay, you say, I've got a brilliant presentation for the Floating Widget; am I done?
You are not!
Does your motivation change with the times? Is that presentation the best of anyone in the world?
There are constantly new goals to strive for, new hurdles to leap.
That's what makes this business/hobby/avocation so fascinating: It never ends; you can always do better.
cheers,
Peter Marucci
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Joe M. Turner
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To follow on to Thomas Wayne's extremely helpful discussion, I'd just like to add that one very accessible acting primer is called "A Practical Handbook for the Actor" by Melissa Bruder et al. It is no substitute for a course in acting or playwriting, but it does illustrate in just a few short pages a good approach for performers who are seeking to understand their onstage characters better.

After I bought it in college, I put the information to use on the very next role I auditioned for (Dr. Herdahl in Ibsen's THE MASTER BUILDER). That play was entered into the Kennedy Center-sponsored American College Theatre Festival and I won an acting award for the role. Now "post hoc ergo propter hoc" is a logical fallacy, but I really believe that the approach in that handbook helped to gel my understanding of motivation and character in that play.

Magic is theatre. Bad magic is bad theatre, and good magic is good theatre.
...
Regards,
Joe M. Turner
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Jeb Sherrill
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Well put Joe.

Sable
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spfranz
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A great discussion going on here and I thank you all for your insights. Let me address a few points though.

"Well, when was the last time you heard a moviegoer talk about the music on the soundtrack of a film s/he had just seen?" Actually, quite often. I just recently had a discussion with someone about the movie "I Am Sam". Every song on the soundtrack was a Beatles tune, mostly sung by today's popular artists. Being in this line of work, there are quite often soundtracks that outsell the movie itself.

"the spectator may not even notice the motivation; but, again, s/he will certainly notice if it is not there -- and that will usually be to the detriment of the performer." Really? I've never had more people talk to me about a magic special on TV than the David Blaine special. Sure, I used to get the comments about the Copperfield shows and some of the others, but nothing like the response I got from Blaine's first special. He had no motivation other than "watch, watch, watch". I'm with most magicians in that I think he had no personality, no motivation for what he did, and very little (if any) performance skills. Why then, was the public so enthralled with this guy? It's part of what got me started on this topic a while back.

"Those who appear to lack it are usually saying inwardly, "I can do magic and you can't. Ha, haha , haha." Again, I'll use Blaine as an example (and this time something he did right). While I didn't care for his style, I never got the feeling that he was making people feel stupid and/or giving the "I can do this and you can't, ha ha" feeling. This also made me question the whole motivation thing. I've often showed something "cool" to friends and family (not magic related). Why not something magical? Especially those visual things. You know, what I mean. Those really cool tricks that you stand in front of a mirror and do for yourself because they just look so cool. Sure, it's something that I can do and they can't but there is a way to show it to them without making them feel stupid.

"Thomas illustrates well, why "good" motivation is so important. If I'm going to my pocket to ditch something and I'm thinking to myself "I need to ditch this", it will show in my actions. " As I mentioned earlier, I fully understand that motivation is required for moves. I don't think anyone would argue that point. My question is why do we need motivation for the effect. Why do I have to have a reason to do Matrix? What possible reason could there really be? Sure, come up with a good story/presentation but really, why?

A good example from my past performance. I used to have this wonderful presentation for my version of Daryl's rope routine. Great story line, etc. Then I had a situation where it was time to perform this effect and there was an outside noise so loud that I couldn't talk over it. I decided to wing it and do it silently. It got a fantastic reaction. I used facial expressions, pointed, etc. to try to make it interesting. Obviously, something hit a nerve with the audience. There was no motivation, there was no patter, there wasn't even music. I had a really hard time understanding that one.

Again, I'd like to thank all of you for a great discussion.

Scott
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Peter Marucci
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Scott writes, above: "I've never had more people talk to me about a magic special on TV than the David Blaine special. "

And, right now, more people talk about Osama Bin Laden than the Pope.

So?

cheers,
Peter Marucci
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WindsorWizard
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Possibly more people talk about Osama Bin Laden than the Pope because he seems to some how become invisible. Maybe one of our psychic counterparts can put a finger on where to look?
EVERYTHING is possible...
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Stephen Long
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Quote:
On 2002-02-10 23:17, Peter Marucci wrote:
And, right now, more people talk about Osama Bin Laden than the Pope.


I have to say that I think people talk about Blaine and Bin Laden for different reasons and I'm not entirely sure I understand the comparison.

Blaine - you hear people comment on how entertaining he is (despite arguments to the contrary): "have you seen him bite the quarter? That's awesome!"

Bin Laden - well, you hear people talk about how demonic he is.

(sorry, don't want to spark the Blaine debate again; I only intended to back up Scott's point that Blaine was sucessful with his only motivation as "watch, watch, here's my idea...")

Just a thought.
Gonz
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