Routining and order of effects

Mar 22, 2010
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So I've been working on my first true close-up routine for a while, and it's finally starting to crystallize out into something I'm really happy with.

Disregarding the thematic side, it's basically two sandwich effects, followed by a variation on French Kiss, then sponge balls as a finisher, all tied together through a series of productions, vanishes and color changes.

Style-wise, it's designed to be good-spirited, tongue-in-cheek, and as disarming as possible.

I know the usual advice is to put your strongest effect last.
The way I feel however, is that I've put the strongest effect, in terms of impossibility, in the middle. Instead, I've put what I think is the more fun and entertaining, but much weaker one in terms of impossibility, effect at the end.

My reasoning is this. I fully believe that it is possible to reach in a spectator an utter and total destruction of normality. I've seen it happen, and frankly, I've decided to not settle for anything less. The best, and possibly only, way I can see of doing this is probably proper buildup and stacking of climaxes until you finally completely tear down their notion of reality.

So far, so good. If one were to follow the standard advice of finishing with their strongest, most impossible effect, they'd leave their spectators at their peak of distorted reality.

Now my question is, why would you want to do this?

The way I figure, at that exact moment your audience should be at their weakest, psychologically speaking. Their walls are down, they're drifting in a vacuum of bewilderment, and they should be clawing for every little scrap of input that confirms that the world still works the way they thought it did.

How I see it, you can do two things from here. The first one would be to leave it at that, take your applause, and move on. Your spectator's original grasp of reality will return sometime thereafter, since all the input they receive is now once again consistent with what they expect from life.

The alternative is what I'm aiming at here. Rather than leaving them hanging in that vacuum, proceed to fill up that vacuum with emotions of your choice. In my case, I'm trying to mostly focus on happiness and joy. Because your spectator's sense of reality is so utterly turned upside-down, they should now be especially receptive to things they feel are familiar, and more importantly, the feelings and thoughts associated with them.


Now, quite possibly, nothing of what I just said makes any sense, and it really doesn't work that way. Let me take this moment to restate the fact that this is actually my first routine I've ever worked on, and that I do not have extensive experience in actually performing magic. Being the perfectionist that I am (and really, this is the thing that will ultimately get the better of me someday), I'm first and foremost focussing on getting a better theoretical foundation and creating a routine that actually offers my audience something I feel is worth it.

So, please don't respond with a "Just do whatever works for you.". I'm interested in why you think certain ideas might or might not work.

Discuss.
 

RealityOne

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I like what you are talking about in theory, but without knowing more of how you present the routine it is difficult to assess how effective your routine will be. That is, the ending could bring closure and positive emotions and a soft landing or it could be a let down that comes across as being a hackneyed attempt at sentimentality which detracts from the prior feeling of astonishment.

I have a church Christmas show that I'm working on where the last effect is Snowstorm. That is clearly not the most powerful magic that I'm showing the audience, but the patter brings it to an emotional level (childhood memories, the quiet of snow, the tranquility of the holidays, the excitement of a child seeing snow, etc.) and brings home the theme of the show ("and in the quiet of the snowfall, you could almost hear echos from two thousand year ago, echos of angels telling us, "unto you a child is born...."). I'm hoping that the ending gets the most powerful reaction on a variety of levels instead of having it be the most powerful effect.

Take the time to post the script of the routine and that will give us a good sense of whether you accomplished what you set out to do.

The other option is to just try performing the routine with and without the ending and see what gets the intended reactions.
 

RickEverhart

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David, Wow...that sounds like a great emotional ending. Should go over well.

Acme, I'm with David on this one. Without seeing how you present the effects it is a tough call. I am a firm believer in NOT starting my first effect out with a card trick. I ALWAYS go the opposite way and choose something like money, spongeballs, etc. Many times in my experience....the minute you pull out that deck...you lose some of your spectators because their mind is already thinking, "Oh...here we go with a card trick that I have seen before." This is how some laymen think even though you and I know that 99 percent of them have not seen what you are about to blow their mind with.

Just food for thought.
 
Apr 9, 2011
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I always put my strongest work last. I follow the advice of my teacher Darwin Ortiz, who literally wrote the book on strong magic. You can see the principals of weak to strong in many other works of art. For example, in any action movie, the big chase or explosions sequences are always at the end. Let's say there was a unbelievable car chase in the middle of a movie. If afterwards there was another less dramatic shorter one, I would think, hmm... the other one was better. If you put it at the end, the first chase scene was good, and everything got better from there.

As far as your act, you want to condition the audience that each thing you do gets better, so you've got them leaning in waiting for more.... rather than guessing is this going to be better or worse than the last one.

p.s. I ALWAYS start with a card trick... bc it's an all card act:)
 
Mar 22, 2010
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RealityOne said:
without knowing more of how you present the routine it is difficult to assess how effective your routine will be.

I'm sorry, I might not have been totally clear in the statement of my question. I'm not really looking for advice on my routine, specifically. It was mostly posted as an example of what I'm talking about, and to illustrate the origin of this train of thought. To rephrase;

Should we look at astonishment as a final goal for our magic, or only as another tool to help influence the minds of our spectators?


RealityOne said:
I'm hoping that the ending gets the most powerful reaction on a variety of levels instead of having it be the most powerful effect.

This is what I'm talking about. Let me second RickEverhart here in saying that it does sound like a really emotional ending. Could you care to elaborate on how you prepare your audience to accept and welcome the feelings and associations that you wish to invoke here? For example, is there a specific build-up of effects, images, or wording that you hope leads the spectators into following along with the associations you've mentioned?


RickEverhart said:
I am a firm believer in NOT starting my first effect out with a card trick.

I understand what you're saying here. To counter, would you still do this if you cannot get away with another type of effect without breaking the motivation and theme of the rest of your routine? I understand you could patter and stylize it into something related, but I'm thinking that if the underlying thematic base is sufficiently far off, this might be difficult to pull off.


Jason Ladanye said:
For example, in any action movie, the big chase or explosions sequences are always at the end.

Except that, they're not. You're right that there's usually the build-up in tension that gradually increases as the movie continues, but the movie doesn't usually end at the moment of this climax. Rather, all this tension is finally released (thus, channeled) into positive thoughts, as we learn that the hero is once again victorious and that no matter the challenges we may face, life will always turn out well in the end.

What I'm saying is, this tension is not used as the ultimate goal in itself. Rather, it is a way of making the viewer care, and thereby gladly accept, the final ideas and messages.

Magic, in my opinion, is a rather unique form of entertainment, as it's one of the only forms that can genuinely invoke astonishment and wonder in people. As I said in my opening post, I think that when you reach true astonishment in people, their view of reality will collapse temporarily. As they are scrambling to rebuild this, will we hand them more beautiful ideas to do this with, or will we let them rebuild it as it once was?

[Edit]

For the record, that is not just a bad attempt at coming off as poetic. I mean it in a very real way.

Because my other major obsession is artificial intelligence, I get to study and think about the conceptual and symbolic sides of information-processing, reasoning, and belief systems. As such, when I say that a person's view of reality would "collapse", and that they are looking for familiar hooks to rebuild it, I really mean that literally.

Feel free to disagree on whether or not this actually works the same way with people, but I just thought that I should make sure that was clear.
 
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RealityOne

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Could you care to elaborate on how you prepare your audience to accept and welcome the feelings and associations that you wish to invoke here? For example, is there a specific build-up of effects, images, or wording that you hope leads the spectators into following along with the associations you've mentioned?

The best way to answer this is to put it into context. The effect is at an end of a show entitled "The Meaning of Christmas." The show starts out talking about how busy we get in December. The effects tie in with the telling of the Christmas story and include a Christmas McCombical Deck effect, an effect where all the items on a do list written by the audience disappear leaving only the words "Unto You A Savior is Born", a Christmas magic coloring book, the production of a Nativity Scene piece by piece, the magical filling of a pantry cabinet with donated food for the less fortunate, a sponge star routine ending with a child producing a giant star, a magical repair of the colored lights on a Christmas tree (seriously, wouldn't you like to be able to fix that one bulb that causes the whole strand to go out by magic?), an effect involving presents and then the finale:

My son Andrew (who has been helping me throughout the show) starts off, "Hey Dad, it is beginning to look like Christmas with the Nativity and the tree." "You’re right. This reminds me of something that happened when I was just a couple of years older than you. It was a really cold Christmas eve and I went to midnight mass with my family. We all were there. Your grandma, grandpa and my brothers and sisters." At this point I begin talking to the audience. "When we went into church a couple of snowflakes were falling." I tear up some tissue paper and toss it in the air. "I didn't think much of it. During mass I couldn't see outside so I didn't know what was happening. But something was happening." Background music starts and is a soft instrumental version of "Silent Night." I take the remainder of tissue paper and crumple it up and put it in my right hand. It actually had begun to snow. I begin to fan the tissue paper and it begins to snow. I pause making it snow for a couple of second. "When we came out, the ground was covered with snow. Do you know how quiet everything sounds at midnight when the ground is covered with snow?" "Was it really quiet?" "Yes, it was. Maybe everyone here could be so quiet you can hear the snowflakes fall." Hopefully everyone in the audience is quiet. I fan some more snow and then say, "that night, with the snow, it was so quiet you could almost hear echos from two thousand years ago, echos of angels." At this point Andrew will read the passage that is at the end of the Peanuts Christmas special, "Behold, I bring to you good tidings of great joy..."

By this point in the show, they have seen a number of astonishing or inexplicable things and have gone through a variety of emotions. Talking about Christmas Eve and snow touches people emotionally. It is something they can visualize. The effect changes from how I am making fake snow from tissue paper to them not caring how I am doing it because they are imagining that the snow is real. The last lines go back to the theme of the show and provide closure to the show.
 

RealityOne

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I'm sorry, I might not have been totally clear in the statement of my question. I'm not really looking for advice on my routine, specifically. It was mostly posted as an example of what I'm talking about, and to illustrate the origin of this train of thought. To rephrase;

Should we look at astonishment as a final goal for our magic, or only as another tool to help influence the minds of our spectators?

***

Magic, in my opinion, is a rather unique form of entertainment, as it's one of the only forms that can genuinely invoke astonishment and wonder in people. As I said in my opening post, I think that when you reach true astonishment in people, their view of reality will collapse temporarily. As they are scrambling to rebuild this, will we hand them more beautiful ideas to do this with, or will we let them rebuild it as it once was?

I like what you are saying but I think to make it really clear we would need an example. I think that is why Rick and I are asking for more details on your routine because we would like to see how you are thinking about doing this.
 
Mar 22, 2010
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RealityOne said:
[Incredibly helpful post]

David (can I call you David? I'm Thomas, by the way.),

Thank you so much for that. I have so much left to learn..

I think your patter is fantastic, and I can see how you lead your audience down the path you have laid out. I also think that you're correct in saying that Christmas and snow have very powerful associations attached to them.

Do I interpret correctly that you specifically do not try to end with a magical (astonishment) climax, but rather, an emotional one? That is, you continue to build up the emotional level after the peak of your actual magic?

This would be opposed to, for example, finishing your patter and creating the largest amount of snow up until now as you take your applause.

RealityOne said:
I like what you are saying but I think to make it really clear we would need an example. I think that is why Rick and I are asking for more details on your routine because we would like to see how you are thinking about doing this.

I originally wasn't going to do this, as I haven't started putting any patter on actual paper. So far, I've been mostly focussing on constructing it thematically and on picking and structuring effects. Still, I´ll see if I can use what I have so far to illustrate my reasoning. This might end up being seriously TL;DR though, so I hope you don't mind.
 

RealityOne

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Do I interpret correctly that you specifically do not try to end with a magical (astonishment) climax, but rather, an emotional one? That is, you continue to build up the emotional level after the peak of your actual magic?

This would be opposed to, for example, finishing your patter and creating the largest amount of snow up until now as you take your applause.

Thomas:

Of course you can call me David.

I think there are different ways to present magic. One way is to illustrate a story. That was the way I used magic in my example. The story was powerful and the magic was strong and fit well within the story. My preference would be for the magic and the story to reach a resolution simultaneously or to have the final reveal immediately follow the last line of the story. For this effect and this story it just worked out that the magic ended before the story.

I also will use a story as the set up for the effect. You tell the story and then perform the effect. The emotions or interest they audience develops in the story transfers over to the effect and strengthens the audience's reaction to the effect. You will see David Copperfield do this in many of his performances.

I think the decision how to integrate the patter with the effect really depends on the patter and the effect. My choice would be to do whatever results in the strongest ending.

I originally wasn't going to do this, as I haven't started putting any patter on actual paper. So far, I've been mostly focussing on constructing it thematically and on picking and structuring effects. Still, I´ll see if I can use what I have so far to illustrate my reasoning. This might end up being seriously TL;DR though, so I hope you don't mind.

I am a big believer in scripting your patter and presentation. There is something about writing it down and going back to read it that makes it better.
 
Mar 22, 2010
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RealityOne said:
I am a big believer in scripting your patter and presentation. There is something about writing it down and going back to read it that makes it better.

I agree. It's just that I haven't started writing it out yet (that is, actually putting into words), not so much that I'm not planning to.

I'll have to get back on the story aspect later, I've just finished this post but it's getting really really late here already, and I only just saw your reply.


To start with the thematics of the routine, it is heavily inspired by Jonathan Kamm's incredible Put On A Happy Face.

The star of the show is a shy but cheerful magician named "Bob" (to be presented in a purposefully anti-climactic way). See my avatar if you haven't already. I've been performing a version of POAHF with him, in the same style, and it´s by far the one effect that gets me the least amount of how-did-you-do-thats, the most cheerful reactions, and the best participation with regards to attention control.

I'm not sure, but I'm thinking that the visual personification and constant referencing as a person help to create suspension of disbelief here. It also radiates that everything that is happening shouldn't be taken too seriously, which when combined with the tongue-in-cheek presentation appears to give off a rather disarming vibe. Further, it possibly helps to project the cause of what is happening onto something (someone) else than me. All of this should be good, as it would preemptively turn off hecklers, help lower spectator's barriers, and set the right mood.

Regarding the structure of the routine, here's more or less what happens.

- A random card is selected from a face up spread, Bob is drawn onto it, and he is lost in the deck.
- Explaining that every magician has assistants, the red queens are produced and handed out.
- Another card is selected, this time known only to the spectator. It is lost in the deck.
- The assistants are taken back, almost immediately used to produce the spectator's card.
- The spectator's card is handed out for inspection, and the assistants are vanished.
- The card is taken back, signed by the spectator, put in a deckbox, and handed back to the spectator.
- The assistants are made to appear again, and immediately used to produce Bob.
- Bob is shown on both sides, then while starting to use him for a trick with the deckbox,
he is suddenly found to have run away onto another card.
- After losing the original Bob-card into the deck, Bob himself is pulled off the top card, and handed to the spectator.
- Dribbling the cards, the spectator throws Bob in between the cards.
- Bob is found to be sitting on an assistant, and in the center of the deck.
- The face side of Bob is marked.
- The spectator is made to hold the Bob card in one hand, and the deckbox in the other.
- After some build-up, the faces of the Bob card and the card in the deckbox are found to have transposed.
- Taking back the deckbox and the marked assistant card, both of those and the rest of the cards are put away.
- Bob is taken back from the spectator, and a 3D sponge rabbit is pulled out of his hat.
- After handing Bob back to the spectator, a friend is produced for the rabbit.
- I go into the default sponge rabbit routine, doing two transportations to their hand, letting them use Bob as a magic wand.
- The final effect is then of course the production of an entire nest of sponge bunnies in their hand.
- The spectator gets to keep Bob as a souvenir.

There's some more convincers and shuffling and such going on, but that's the gist of it.

Tempo-wise, I'm thinking about a small build-up into the first sandwich production, a rather fast series of happenings during the second one and the jumping-around shenanigans, and then a large build-up into the transposition. This is where I want to reach destruction of normality. What I'm thinking is, from now on, for as long as you can keep them in that state of mind, everything is possible, because their security in how the world works has fallen away. If you successfully manage to challenge the right axioms, they'd really have to rebuild everything from the ground up.

Up until this point, I'm not even focusing on particular emotions, except those generated by the overall theme. This changes from here on out. The sponge rabbits are meant to be even more cute and disarming, while at the same time linking to all the associations normal rabbits have. Needless to say, this is where patter might be further used to invoke related emotions, and propose familiar hooks. The continued climaxes, though smaller than the transposition, help to keep them from being able to restore to normality.

That's as far as my routine goes. I'm trying to put into words a more formal description of what I'm trying to say, but I'll need some more time. Still, this should give you a general idea of what I'm trying to accomplish here.
 

RealityOne

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Thomas:

I like this. I actually think that the sponge bunny routine may be more powerful for the spectators than POAHF. In part because POAHF lowers their defenses. If you just started off with the sponge bunnies, the spectators could see it as being cheesy. You use POAHF to set the mood as being a little whimsical. There is a nice cohesion between the two effects because of the "rabbit in hat" cliche - you take that and use it to your advantage. But what I think makes the sponge bunnies more powerful is that you are taking a one dimensional effect (with a drawing on a card) and making it three dimensional WHILE shifting the magic from your hands to the spectator's hands.

The tempo here also works to your advantage. There is a build of impossibility with the card effect and then a second build of impossibility with the sponge bunnies which results in the multiple bunny production at the end.

Both routines are disarming. The spectator will be so wrapped up that they won't care how the effects are done. Even if they do care, the succession of multiple impossibilities within the card routine and then within the sponge bunny routine will leave them with too much to try and figure out and I expect they will simply surrender to the impossible.
 
Mar 22, 2010
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[Definition and disclaimer]

Let me start off by defining, for the people who feel that I might be overthinking this, what I mean with “collapsing of reality”. In terms of spectator reactions, I’m obviously not talking about “Wow, that was really good, that must’ve taken a lot of practice”. I’m also not talking about them running around screaming and such. Ideally, I’m talking about the kind of utterly silent, eyes-wide-shut, bordering-on-catatonic-shock kind of astonishment. My thinking is, this is a very powerful state of mind to get your spectator into, and it’s a shame to let it go to waste by invoking it at the end of your routine.

There might be some people who are by now thinking that it is hard, or in some cases impossible, to invoke this at your command. You might be right, but that is besides my point here. I’m mostly interested in what we could do with this if we can, and why this would work. Make no mistake though, it is definitely possible to achieve this in a spectator.

Now, I’ll try to explain the way that I’m looking at what is happening here, and I apologize in advance if it gets a bit technical in the process. I’ll do my best to keep it clear and readable though. Again, let me restate that most of how this applies to magic is my own theoretical rambling, and that I do not have a whole lot to back it up with. So, feel free to disagree with whatever.

[Belief systems, and tearing them down]

The way I’m looking at this is as follows. Most of what human beings believe in is made up of a complicated, vastly interconnected web of knowns, unknowns, deductions, inductions, and their associated feelings, thoughts, imagery etc. Some, if not most, of these “truths” are dependant upon others, with a given measure of certainty.

To illustrate, a possible truth could be “I like apple pie”, which is for a given measure of certainty, dependant upon the lower-level truth of “I like apples”. I will refer to these dependancies as

i_like_apples -> i_like_apple_pie

These dependancies are not usually circular. So, “I like apple pie because I like apples, and I like apples because I like apple pie” does not make sense. It follows, then, that there must be some ultimate base line of given truths, upon which all the other truths are dependant, and none of which depend upon another. That is, they are always assumed to be true, and everything else that is assumed to be true is build on top of these. “Solid objects don’t tend to vanish into thin air”, would probably be one. I will refer to these kinds of truths as axioms. Anyone familiar with formal logic should start to see where I’m going with this.

The certainty dependancy can also be quite easily explained. Let’s say that a person never before in his life has eaten, seen, or even heard of an apple that he didn’t like. He would be completely and utterly convinced that he likes apples. I will express this like so:

i_like_apples(100) (completely true)
Or in another example, maybe: i_like_spinach(0) (completely false).

To keep things simple, let’s say that “Pie” relies for 50% on “Apples”, because this person has met some of the worst cooks in the world, and didn’t like exactly half the pies. The relationship of these truths would then look like:

Apples(100) -> Pie(50)

Now, what happens when that person suddenly hears of the world’s most foul tasting apple? It’d probably put a dent in this believe, maybe changing the relationship to something like:

Apples(99) -> Pie(45)

Though this relationship is somewhat more complicated in reality, it does illustrate what I’m getting at. If that person were to have a particularly traumatic experience with regards to apples, it might eventually turn out to reduce to:

Apples(0) -> Pie(0)

This also works the other way around. If, for example, we have this set of knowledge:

Spinach(0) -> SpinachPie(0)

As one day we are pursuaded into eating a particularly tasty spinach pie, it might change to

Spinach(5) -> SpinachPie(20)

Nothing of this should really be new, but I wanted to make it clear what I’m talking about, and illustrate the interdependency that I want to ultimately attack.

How this applies to magic should by now be simple to see. Aim all your guns at the most important axioms, and pull the trigger. This sounds like a rather obvious statement, but we now have a very specific concept of what we are attacking and what the results will be. I do think there might be a more elegant alternative to this (namely, attacking specific axioms in a specific order to maximize the collapsing effect), but that is for some other time.

[Rebuilding, and influencing this]

So now, you’ve done it. You’ve succesfully shot down the entire “this should always be true” foundation, and the massively interconnected network that is their belief system has crashed down on itself. Where to go from here? That is the question I originally intended.

Like I said earlier, one possible idea would be to leave it at this. You’ve reached the peak of what you’ve set out to do, in terms of astonishment. Their entire world has stopped making sense, and they’re going to have to put it back together. You’ve achieved magic.

Alternatively, we could help them put it back together.

The way I figure, once they reach this state, they’re going to try and restore to what I like to call normality really fast. This is the point where all the axioms are again assumed to be 100% true, and all the inferences have been made that were necessary to restore the original certainty of the things dependant upon them. This is what I refer to as rebuilding their reality.

So, if we want to really influence this, we’re really going to have two objectives here:

First, we have to realize that we can’t drive them much deeper than this. Anything that hasn’t come down during this collapse most likely wasn’t dependent upon the axioms we’ve targetted. So, to continue the attack at this point would be useless. Likewise, if we try to broaden our scope at this point, the attack will be weak and ineffective, because the newly targetted axioms still have all, or most, of their defenses left. We can, however, try to keep them from restoring fully, by letting them rebuild (though not completely), then breaking down again.

Secondly, we want to guide the rebuilding along a path that we’ve determinded. This should accomplish three goals:

- If, hypothetically, we’d get to pick ALL the associations and inferences they follow along with, we could aim to create a really small and fragile reality. This would make it much easier to break down again.
- Second, we’d get to pick all the associations, feelings, imagery and such that make up this reality.
- As a final, and most important point, after they’ve fully restored to normality, the induced feelings and imagery we’ve guided them through have established themselves as the new foundation of their belief system, since all the other deductions and inferences have been made from there. Also, through induction, confirmation of actual reality should strengthen belief in the foundation, which are now our proposed ideas.

Now obviously, we cannot actually accomplish this to such an extent in real life. The results will be less dramatic than what I’ve just laid out. Still, I think that this is how we should really try to convey meaning through our magic.

So, how do we accomplish this, from a practical point of view? I’m really thinking that at this point, the spectator really wants to restore to normality. As was mentioned earlier with regard to movies and tension, we’ve now made them care and wanting to accept the things they are offered. So what are they looking for? My reasoning is, mostly things they feel they are familiar with and, and this is important here, with a lot of associations and relationships, so that they can easily use this input to reconfirm other beliefs. This is what I’ve been referring to as familiar hooks.

This concept should work along the entire range of possible inputs, both internally and externally. So, they might be expressed as objects, events, images, sounds, scents, words, thoughts etc. So, if we want to succesfully guide the reconstruction of their belief system, we should be trying to give to the spectator things that:

- Have a lot of connections, or links, to other thoughts. They should be, first and foremost, familiar.
- Are all associated with each other, in order to create a small reality.
- Are easily manipulated, so that this constructed reality becomes fragile.
- Are connected to the feelings and thoughts that we want to include in the new foundation of their belief system.

And, again, we should be giving them these after we've broken down their reality, because this is the point where they will be most willing to accept them, and where they should have the largest influence.

It directly becomes apparent that all of these characteristics are heavily expressed in the climax of David’s show, and I think that is why it would make for such strong magic.

[To conclude]

Some possible points of discussion that I would really like to hear opinions on would be; What can we do to help target the right axioms? What are the right axioms to target? How might we properly introduce familiar hooks upon rebuilding? What hooks do you think would be powerful, and why? Do you even believe that it is a good idea to try to invoke this in the center of your routine, as opposed to at the end? And quite possibly, “Dude, what the **** are you talking about?”.

So yeah, TL;DR. Discuss.
 
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RealityOne

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I think I understand where you are going.

My initial reaction is that if someone cannot process a series of events (a magic performance which violates their certainty of reality) they do not overturn their belief system but carve out an exception. Balls cannot penetrate metal cups EXCEPT during a magic show (after seeing a cups and balls routine) or something I am holding in my teeth cannot change places with something in someone else's mouth unless it is a trick done by a magician. "It is I like apple pies except those Sarah Lee frozen pies you just heat up in the oven (because that really isn't an apple pie)."

In many ways this is someone putting things into a context. "X" can't happen unless it is during a magic show. Maybe this is akin to theatrical suspension of disbelief (people can't fly, I'm sure there is ropes making Peter Pan fly, I'll ignore it and enjoy the story by pretending people can fly while I'm watching the show).

I think what you are suggesting is that we, as magicians, help them put it into a different context. That is, we define how they frame the exception.

If that is what you are suggesting, I think that is what we should be doing. In part, we have to design our performances to eliminate possible explanations (without over proving the fairness of what we are doing - that tends to be counter productive because it focuses the spectators on the fact that there is another method) and to eliminate the desire to seek possible explanations through strong patter. But more importantly, we need to construct a context for them to place their astonishment or as you put it a context in which to rebuild their reality.

I think that the new context needs to be built within the routine. As I mentioned above, I think it could be before the effect, during the effect or after the effect. That context can vary. I did a Harry Potter show where the cups from cups and balls became enchanted -- it wasn't me doing magic but it was the cups. I've presented Dan Harlan's Hovercard as being real magic taught to me by an older Chinese gentleman at a magic shop in San Francisco. I've presented the Haunted Key as a key to the armoire in the upstairs bedroom of my grandparent's house in Long Island. I've presented Eric Ross's Election as a compatibility test between couples (the patter talking about whether it is better to be alike or different). What is interesting is that the effects become inextricably linked with the presentation. People come up to me and talk about the compatibility test and not "the card trick where we picked the same card with different colored backs."

If you look at David Blaine, he does something different. He provides a context in his character and encourages people to believe that he is able to do "real magic." Again, this is a different approach but based on the same principle of providing a context for your performance.
 
Mar 22, 2010
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”RealityOne” said:
My initial reaction is that if someone cannot process a series of events they do not overturn their belief system but carve out an exception.

I think you are correct, but I also think that two things are crucial here. First, they will need a foundation to build this exception on, otherwise it still wouldn’t make sense. Second, this “carving” is an active process, and doesn’t happen instantaneously.

To bluntly put this in a non-magical context (and I apologize in advance if this offends anyone), let’s look at something that most people would take for granted; family. The belief “my family will always be there for me” is, I think, a belief that most people will have a rather axiomatic view towards. That is, they’ll assume this is true most of the time, and a lot of their other beliefs will be rooted in and build upon this foundation. Image what happens when a person comes home after a hard day’s work and suddenly learns that his entire family was killed in a terrible accident. Again, I’m really sorry if I just offended anyone, but this does illustrate perfectly what I’m aiming at (albeit, somewhat negatively).

At that moment, reality collapses. Sure, they’ll eventually rebuild it, and possibly carve out some exceptions to cope with the new experiences, but at that moment, the foundation has truly fallen away. I think this is what you referred to earlier as “giving in to the impossibility”, though really, I don’t think they have much of a choice left at this point.

”RealityOne” said:
In many ways this is someone putting things into a context. "X" can't happen unless it is during a magic show. Maybe this is akin to theatrical suspension of disbelief.

I don’t think it’s the same thing as theatrical suspension of disbelief, though I do believe they are closely related and both very important in accomplishing what I’m trying to do.

Basically, I think that, through proper presentation, patter, stylizing and such, we get to narrow down the active reality that the spectator currently possesses. This should achieve more or less the same effect as what I said earlier, in that we should aim to create a “smaller, more fragile” reality. However, and crucial, this is achieved here through theatrical suspension of disbelief, not the guiding of the rebuild process. We’ve put them in a new, smaller reality, but so far, nothing really weird is going on. That is, we’re mostly preparing them for the upcoming collapse, and I think this is where suspension of disbelief is most important.

”RealityOne” said:
I think that the new context needs to be built within the routine. As I mentioned above, I think it could be before the effect, during the effect or after the effect.

***

What is interesting is that the effects become inextricably linked with the presentation.

I agree, and think that that actually makes a lot of sense, given this model. I have some thoughts on how this would work out, but I need some more time to put this into words.

”RealityOne” said:
If you look at David Blaine, he does something different. He provides a context in his character and encourages people to believe that he is able to do "real magic." Again, this is a different approach but based on the same principle of providing a context for your performance.

Actually, I’m guessing this is happening through lack of a new context. That is, he doesn’t really narrow down the spectator’s sense of reality before he rips away the foundation. Through the rather mysterious and intense image that he has adopted, I’m thinking that most people will be linking into lots of unknows, and therefore possibilities, creating something that might be called “un-theatrical” suspension of disbelief. Because they should at the same time be sticking to their actual sense of reality, the collapsing should be intense and take down with it a large portion of their belief system. Hence, magic. Incidentally, this is why I think that “street magic” in general appears to get at the same time very powerful reactions, though largely lacking in emotion.

I’m sorry if I’m coming off as unclear or rambling. I’m trying to put forward a more formal, theoretical model of what we do that might be used to analyse and construct stronger, more emotional magic. I’m having a bit of a hard time expressing this in natural language though.

[Edit]

Not that I have any data to back it up with, of course. It is what led me to construct and stylize my routine the way I did, and it positively predicts that your climax should be particularly strong. So, you're still free to shoot it down (I'd be glad for the help), but that's what I'm trying to get at.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
Mar 22, 2010
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I just reread the entire thing again and I realized this might come off as really confusing if you don’t know what I’m trying to say. I think I have figured out how to put this in internet terms. With regard to the question “How should we use the sensation of astonishment in our magic?”, the usual advice would be:

1) Tricks!
2) Shock&Awe
3) ???
4) PROFIT!

What I’m suggesting is, I think it might be a good idea to fill in the blanks, and turn it into:

1) Tricks!
2) Shock&Awe
3) Rebuild
4) MOAR PROFIT!

And then with regard to rebuilding, I propose we should try to follow the pointers that I’ve laid out in the conclusion of the model described above. That is, we should specifically try to incorporate this concept into our routining, and try to maximize the input of these “familiar hooks” at specific moments. We should try to accomplish this through the structuring and stylizing of the routine, as well as the actual construction of our effects and props.
 
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