What will magic look like in the future?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Scodischarge, May 29, 2019.

  1. "Moves that many today consider to be 'simple' are the moves that the masters of the previous generation built their careers on. Berglas' card work can be summed up with a good memory, a perfect fan, and the Glide (and the ability to jazz his way through a situation)."

    The above was written by @ChristopherT recently in answer to a question of mine. It got me thinking though -- What will the career of a magician today and in the future be built on?
    Obviously many things stay the same, such as an ability to connect with the audience, to direct their attention etc.
    But I believe that many things will change as well. Take the internet as an example: All it takes nowadays is to search for "most important card magic moves" on YouTube and you know how double lifts, passes and forces work and any layman who spends 5 minutes with researching this can tell how most simple card tricks work.
    Oftentimes it isn't enough to change a card before the spectators eyes, they need something far more spectacular. Why? Because they have the greatest magicians and most amazing performances literally at their fingertips.
    Another problem: The attention span seems to have grown pretty short. If a trick doesn't grab (and hold!) somebody's attention immediately at the beginning they will turn it somewhere else pretty quickly.
    I have the feeling that it also takes a lot more to really impress and astound people. To say it in Simon Aronson's words: “There is a world of difference between a spectator’s not knowing how something’s done versus his knowing that it can’t be done.” Especially nowadays, with science on the march and nearly everybody thinking that there is a rational explanation for everything, this has become increasingly difficult. The magician's goal should be to create the "natural state of wonder", as Paul Harris calls it, and he can only do this by making the spectator think that not only does he not know how to do a trick, but he must think that there is no way to possibly do it. And, if you look around: How many would really give in to their sense of wonder and how many would simply shrug and say "Nice, but in the end it's just some trick."?

    Looking back I've noticed that I've been rambling a bit, but I think I made my point. Now, to get back to the question: What will the success of this generation be built on? Magic in combination with technology? Gimmicks that practically do the work for the magician? Or do you think that it won't actually change too much?

    I'm really looking forward to your thoughts on this matter!
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  2. I think we're going to see a distinct shift away from displays of skill style magic, towards story/imagination based presentations.

    Bizarre is gaining ground - even being featured multiple times in mainstream shows.

    I think we'll see more mentalism (whether that's good or not has yet to be seen).

    My observation is that audiences want to feel a genuine experience. They don't care to see someone show off - they want to feel like they're taking part in something unique and memorable. They want to feel something from the performance.

    This isn't incorrect, but it's somewhat misleading. I hold people's attention no problem - and my style is not flashy in the slightest. I'm a story teller, I intrigue them with a narrative that they take part of. I don't think that attention spans have gotten all that short - I think that what it takes to hook the attention has changed. In that sense, the performer has to prove immediately that they are worth the audience's time and attention. Because the audience has spent all day, every day, barraged by BS that isn't worth their time.

    Contemporary audiences have developed an extremely effective BS filter (Due to advertising and the abundance of entertainment available). You have to prove you're not BS.

    I don't think this is as relevant any more. I can explain to you, in excruciating detail, how suggestion and hypnosis work (just ask the attendees of my last lecture - it was supposed to be 1 hour, it went at least 4) - but I guarantee you I can also keep you fascinated by what can be done with it. I can explain to you how I read you and tell you details that I should have no way of knowing - and trust me, the lines of people that form whenever I start doing it tell me people are still fascinated. Explaining muscle reading doesn't make it less mysterious when you're really good at it.

    To quote Terry Pratchett - Just because you know how it works, doesn't stop it being magic.

    And I think this is the one of the biggest changes that will happen. Magicians can no longer rely on just knowing something other people don't know. They're actually going to have to do something with that knowledge that is interesting, engaging, intriguing. They're going to have to focus on being genuine, and giving a genuine experience. By which I'm not saying everything has to be absolutely true, but that the performer is presenting something authentically from themselves.

    "Just entertaining" isn't going to cut it any more.

    EDIT: Forgot one part - I think technology will have to be actively avoided for the most part - or in the least, it will have to be/feel absolutely (psychologically) invisible. It's too easy to explain ... anything ... with technology these days, so if any kind of tech is obviously involved that will end up being the explanation, which will remove the immersive experience.
  3. According to the Wikipedia Magic Timeline the first magi can be traced back to Dedi of Egypt. This was 2700 B.C , so technically we are in the future of magic development. Now, if you are talking about the future from this point forward I would imagine that things will get even more exciting for the world of magic. I personally think that the future of magic doesn't necessarily mean that you have to ignore the basics of magic. I don't think that we have evolved to the point where the lay person fully understands what's going on in a card trick especially the more advance tricks. There are scores of methods unknown to magicians let a lone a lay person. I think there is too much left to the imagination when considering what the future holds in store for magic or anything else for that matter.

    This video came up in another thread and it sort of got bashed: But I think he answers some of your questions.
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  4. Ramsey and his ilk are at the forefront of the trivialization of magic. They are the ones largely pushing it to be insular incestuous - essentially putting out the idea that the point of magic is to create things to sell.

    All flash, no substance. A personality cult, essentially.

    I don't think this style is going to be what continues to be popular, if they even keep it up - I've noticed a lot of them are moving on to different pastures and keeping magic as a hobby more than anything.
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  5. Interesting.....I get that a lot from a lot of these up and comers. They want to monetize, and have very little respect for magic. As long as they have 500,000 + Subscribers on YouTube they are happy. I put in enough hours(with cards) to know that I'm straight up trash(maybe that's being too hard but it's true) , I like to here different perspectives from different magi it's nice to see where everyone comes from when interpreting.
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  6. Thank you very much for your input, everyone! It's really interesting to hear your thoughts.

    Actually, what ChristopherT said really got me excited for the future! From what you wrote I get the feeling that whoever wants to really be good at magic in the future needs to step up their game, not necessarily as a sleight of hand artist, but as a performer. Personally, I consider this as mostly a challenge to myself.
    One other reason I'm looking forward to (hopefully) seeing more of this: The knowledge of many often used sleights and gimmicks has kind of taken the magic away from magic shows for me personally. One of the few magicians who still manages to make me feel this sense of magic, who I watch not to see how the greats do it, but simply for the great show, is Bill Malone. Many of his tricks aren't that complicated in terms of sleight of hand, but I don't care about that because his show is just so fun to watch!
    So yeah, I'm actually getting quite optimistic about the future!

    PS: @ChristopherT Sorry, little change of topic. I'm quite a Terry Pratchett fan myself. Which book is that quote from? My guess would be Equal Rites or Witches Abroad. Or is it a different book?
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  7. Wee Free Men.
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  8. Thanks. Don't know that one yet, but I'll check it out.
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  9. It's the first book of the Tiffany Aching story.
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  10. @ChristopherT's post says much of what I'm going to say... but good ideas deserve repeating.

    Like anything else, magic has a lot of different flavors. There is the guy who can do a couple of tricks... and then shows you how its done. There is the YouTube kid with the crotch shot videos of them playing with their cards. There is the adult version of the YouTube kid who is more interested in subscribers than magic. There are the guys that have an amazing skill level, but no ability to perform for a person. There are the hacks that do other people's effects, using the same lines, usually badly. Then there are those who decide to make their magic about something more then the tricks. There will always be the good, the mediocre and the bad. And, there will always be those who strive for excellence.

    1. Knowledge of Methods.

    I think I've told the story of watching the Masked Magician make a silk change color. My wife asked me if I did it the same way. I told her that no magician really uses that method. I then when and performed a color changing silk for her. She agreed that I definitely didn't use that method. Eh... I actually did use the same method.

    I've had people come up to me and talk about the magic set linking rings they had when they were kids and then say, "but you do the real thing, not some kiddie magic set stuff." Of course I do. :cool:

    One principle that I truly believe is the idea that a sleight needs to imitate a natural motion. For card magic, a lot of this is from Roberto Giobbi's teaching. The big thing I see in a lot of performers is signaling that they are doing something... the audience doesn't know what they did, but they know the did something. Proper construction of an effect makes sure that you've done everything you need even before the audience knows anything is going to happen. If you are performing under scrutiny, you moves need to be justified, smooth, natural and automatic. I've done my final cups and balls load so many times that I don't even know I'm doing it.

    The other thing is to delve deeply into our secrets. The people who post on YouTube most likely will never open Tarbell or look at Annemann's the Jinx. I could make a career out of either of those works. Names like Hoffman, Devant, Downs, Hamman, Hugard, Hillard, Garcia (Frank not Danny), Gardner and Benson are unknowns. They think that Fulves only publishes self-working tricks and never heard of Hirophant, Almanac or Apocalypse. Then there are the things you can only learn at a Denny's after midnight. ;)

    2. Difficulty

    Don't confuse difficult with quality. Remember, the audience doesn't know the method. To them, it doesn't matter how difficult it is. I'll take a clever method any day over a knuckle buster.

    3. Attention Spans

    Tricks don't entertain people, magicians do. My test is whether you can keep people's interest in your presentation even if you didn't do magic. I've had people approach me after a show to ask me to repeat something I said so that they could tell their husband when they got home. Like Christopher, most of my performances are stories. To me parlor magic is part monologue and part improvisation (on the part of the volunteer). Close up magic is a conversation. Scripting matters. Be interesting. Be entertaining.

    The worst presentation is a say-do-see presentation. You say what you are going to do, do it and then tell the audience to see the result. It is what the late Eugene Burger called narrating the adventures of the props in the magician's hands. First off, if you talk about WHAT you are doing, the audience is necessarily going to wonder HOW you are doing it. Much better to have a presentation that makes them not care HOW you are doing it (think about it, do you care how they do the special effects when you watch a Marvel movie?). Second, props aren't that exciting to people other than magicians. People and stories are much more exciting.

    4. Impressing People

    I'm going to go with simple is best here. I don't think demonstrations of skill impress people. I think demonstrations of the impossible impress people. The key is for the performer to define the impossibility. My favorite moment is when the audience realized where an effect is going the moment before it is there. I think what is going on in their head is... "wait, is he going to do that... there is no way he can do that.... oh my gosh, he actually did that." They realize what is going to happen, realize it is impossible and then see it done - all because the presentation has led them to that point.

    5. Going Beyond the Moment of Astonishment

    When I first read Paul Harris's essay, I wondered why astonishment only lasts a moment. That made me wonder how to make astonishment last longer? For me, the answer was in providing meaning. I'm not talking about the trite presentations that try to evoke emotion but only end up comparing the volunteer to a playing card. Magic should be designed to make the audience FEEL EMOTIONS. The performance of magic can evoke playfulness, joy, sorrow, humor, empathy, discomfort, faith, gratitude and so much more.

    6. Performance Pieces

    Larry Haas talks about presentation pieces in his book Transformations. This is where I hope the future of magic goes. A performance piece pulls together a solid method and a strong presentation. A performance piece is what results of working on something for months or longer to fine tune every single part of it. I have around 10 of them in various forms of completion. I like the idea of signature pieces -- something that only you can perform because you have put that much effort into the effect.
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  11. You wrote so much (not to be taken negatively!), it's difficult to respond to everything. I'll have to read a lot of what you said again a few times and mull it all over in my head. Just a few things:

    I agree 100%. One reason why I'm glad I started with Daniel Madison: Even though I use hardly any of the techniques he teaches he taught me just this. Whenever I practice a new (or old) move I try to put myself in the position he describes: Ready to have my fingers broken at the slightest flash.* So I first do the motion I want to imitate a few times, see exactly how I do it, and then practice the sleight.

    Can you give me an example for this?

    This is probably the biggest problem I'll have: How do I do that? How can I perform this well? Is it just something to learn by doing? I know that theory can only help me so far (sadly), so I'm kind of afraid of performing - even if it's just for friends or family - and not being able to give them a good enough performance.
    How did you learn it?

    Thank you so much for your answer. It has answered much more than my original question.

    *Say about DM what you will. Even if he is full of crap, I still believe that at least this part of his teachings will serve me well in the future.
  12. Occupational hazard.

    I think the learning technique you use is right, but the motivation is wrong. A focus on not flashing causes tension in your movements and often a subconscious glance at your hands -- especially in those beginning magic. When the "silent script" (what you say in your mind when you are performing a sleight) is "don't flash" bad things happen (tension and tells that a move was done). When the "silent script" is to do the motion you are imitating (e.g. "put the coin in your left hand" or "turn over a single card") your actions are more congruent with the illusion you are trying to create.

    I perform Eric Ross's Election with a presentation about relationships, asking the question "is it better for people in a relationship to be more alike or more different?" I do the effect with a couple (the longer they have been together the better). One person is handed a red deck and the other a blue deck. They each turn over a card in the deck when it is behind their backs. I tell them that the closer the card they turn over is to the other person's card the more similar they are - its good if they are the same color, better if they are the same suit and great if they are both number cards or face cards (notice I don't mention the possibility of them being identical). Before revealing the card they select, I ask them if they think they are more similar or more different? The volunteers and the audience feel a bit of tension -- are they alike or are they different. Then, remembering this is a magic show, the audience gets to "wouldn't it be funny if the cards were the same" and then to "there is no way that would happen." The cards do match each other. I comment that the same card almost never happens and then tell the audience that I think people in a relationship need a balance of being both similar and different. At this point, the audience is confused. I ask one person what color all the cards in their deck is, and then ask the other person. At that point, the audience gets to the "could the cards they picked have a different colored back?" and "there is no way that could be." I ask the spectators to pick up their card and turn it over to show the audience the back. The person with a blue deck has a red card and the person with the red deck has a blue card.

    Don't be afraid of performing.Give yourself permission to suck. Perform, suck, think about why you suck and then improve. Rinse, repeat. You can't get better at performing without actually performing. You will not be the best at first, but will only become the best by practicing and failing. That applies similarly to your technical skills and your presentation skills. As you start off, you will progress faster with your technical skills because you can fine tune those through practice. It is OK to rely on the strength of the "trick" as you begin performing and not worry about presentation. That often is enough to provide people with a moment of astonishment. Then work on how to take it to the next level.

    The ultimate answer to the "how" is scripting and presentation. It comes down to relating the effect you are performing to something meaningful.

    My performance of Election is about relationships and the presentation focuses on the similarities and differences between the volunteers in their relationship. I do a routine using worry stones (which is an adaptation of a Eugene Burger effect using prayer beads) that is based on quotes from a musician, a philosopher and a theologian about prayer. My egg bag routine is a story about a young girl living with her mother in German occupied France (and a meta-story about how my mother would make up stories for me when I was growing up). My needle swallowing routine is a monologue about relaxing at the end of the day with a glass of wine, filled with a lot of pointed puns. l perform my adaptions of Jim Steinmeyer routines about "mixing apples and oranges" and how my crazy uncle got me into magic. I'm currently trying to come up with a presentation for Kainoa Harbottle's Victorian Coins and Glass. The glass reminds me of my grandmother's house and I'm playing with themes of saving money or giving to charity.

    Inspiration comes from a lot of areas. I've got books on Edgar Allen Poe, Grimm's Fairy Tales, folk lore and philosophy. I love history and specifically magic history. Find things that interest you and use them as the basis for your script.

    There are a lot of books out there on scripting and giving meaning. I like Eugene Burger's books the best for meaning and I love how Jim Steinmeyer writes his scripts (great examples in Genii magazine which if you get a subscription to you get access to over 75 years of past issues and a whole book full in Conjuring which is a compilation of his Magic magazine articles). For mental magic, Max Maven has great presentations in his Genii columns and in his Prism book. Robert Neale has very meaningful but more esoteric presentations in his work and Larry Haas proved a great roadmap to developing presentation pieces in his book Transformations.
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  13. Wow ... Honestly, I think I'm learning more from 3 posts from your side than I've learned in the 8 months before.

    That's really something I'd never thought about. I never even thought of that problem. Thank you for the pointers!

    And, of course, many thanks for the examples.
  14. Wow ... Honestly, I think I'm learning more from 3 posts from your side than I've learned in the 8 months before.

    That's really something I'd never thought about. I never even thought of that problem. Thank you for the pointers!

    And, of course, many thanks for the examples.
  15. I don’t agree with this at all. I think that Ramsay is doing wonders for the community by making it more mainstream. He is getting rid of the “top hats and rabbits” stereotype. And let’s not forget that Penn and Teller are doing a masterclass, and if that’s not “pushing magic into the public” I don’t know what is.
  16. This is my goal when rehearsing. I want to reach a moment where I sometimes go, "Wait, did I actually do it?"

    Side note - this can also inject some real emotion into the reveal, because sometimes I'm genuinely not sure if I did the move or not.

    And be interested as well. One of the easiest ways to make a presentation engaging is to make it about things you genuinely care about. The audience senses that authentic interest and responds to it. Even if it's not something that particular person is super into, they will often respond to the performer's joy regardless.

    Juan Tamariz's concept of The Magic Comet. Also have you read much S.H. Sharpe? I think you'd really dig it, if you can get a copy of Art and Magic.

    D&L Magic is now a 7 minute walk from my house. After Denny passed a few locals took over the store and found a nice deal on a shop front down town.

    But the key to this is being able to be honest with yourself, and I also think it's important to have a collection of others who can give you honest feedback. You need to learn to recognize where something could be better, or just isn't working the way you want it to, and you need to be able to kill those darlings and fix it. A performer has to be able to listen to someone who knows what they're talking about when that person says, "This is not good." or the softer version, "I don't think that's doing what you want it to."

    Ramsay is pushing magic further into the mainstream. Probably not as much as he thinks he is, but he is.

    I don't necessarily think that's a good thing, and here's why. In this TedTalk I plan .... kidding.

    Ramsay's channel presents a version of magic that is, put simply, not magical. It's flashy, "look at this, watch what happens when I wave my hand, isn't that so cool?" watered down David Blaine style. So it appeals to people who just want to do tricks and bask in the adoration of the audience without worrying about the guts of what makes magic, magical. It's the same people who automatically assume that anything that should be impossible is automatically magical. This is clearly not true. This is why so many videos from these folks end with spectators saying things like, "How did he do that?" "I didn't see him do anything" and other method-centric reactions.

    Problem 2: He's focused on selling the product, not creating magical experiences. Most of his career in magic was spent creating tricks and selling them. Giving away tutorials on YouTube is the same thing - just a different way to sell it. If you read Magic is Dead you'll see Ian Frisch's entire mentality was that to be a magician you had to sell a trick - it's like a quarter of the book. So he's created the model that magicians create magic for other magicians to perform and that's the epitome of "Magician"-dom. This is patently incorrect. The point of being a magician is to create a magical experience for the audience.

    Problem 3: He's promoting a model of magic in which people are encouraged to expose secrets to gain social favor. He, and several of his friends, all do 'tutorial' videos (which is just exposure) on their channels. This is, regardless of how they frame it, an attempt to gain subscribers/views - because that's their job. You can tell because they never go into serious detail on the theory in these videos - because theory doesn't get as many views. Ramsay has stated that himself. That in itself doesn't actually bother me - but what does bother me is that the model he presents is that he is what the top of the magic food chain looks like. So people who want to 'be successful' in magic think they need to emulate him, so they start trying to make 'tutorial' videos, because that's what the cool guy does and they want to be the cool guy.

    I have nothing against Ramsay as a person, but I think he's wildly misguided on what magic actually is. At least, his public persona is.

    Oh, and side note, flat brimmed hats, beards, tattoos, t-shirt, jeans, and flashy sneakers is just another stereotypical type of wardrobe.
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  17. Thank you very much for your input as well!
    I'll keep out of the Ramsay discussion, as my own opinion isn't nearly well-founded (or articulated) enough to help the discussion in any way. But I'm looking forward to more on the topic!
  18. That feeling scares the $#!% out of me.

    Noted and on the to buy list.

    Different Denny's -- no eggs and pancakes -- but, yes... your local magic shop works too.

    [Drops mic. Leaves room. Just silence. Then a single person stands up and begins a slow clap. The rest of the audience joins in. ]
  19. Magician ^


  20. I like Ramsay but I do think that his style of magic, while it may seem cutting edge right now, is not.

    Here are my predictions for the future of magic:

    1. Current and Near Future - A surge in formal, look at the table kind of magic. Shin Lim and Eric Chien are at the forefront of this. The market is oversaturated with "street" magicians (Ramsay, Julius Dean, Jibrizy, etc.). Instagram magic is cool but I think the public wants more. I think they are finding it in formal close-up acts and technology helps this style of magic be shared with more and more people (in live performance and on television). In the past, this type of magic was destined to be performed on the floor at conventions, but now Eric Chien is performing it for stadiums full of people.


    2. Hopeful Prediction - I'd love to see American magic become more lyrical like French and Chinese magic. Yif, David Copperfield, Marc Spellman, and Lu Chen are at the front of this kind of movement. Their magic becomes EXTREMLEY theatrical, and full of meaning. I hope this catches on.

    3. The Bleeding Edge - Immersive magic is the next big thing. I think it's the most interesting thing out there and I think most magicians have no idea what it entails. Brent Braun, Andy Jerxman, Paul Harris and Michael Carbonaro are at the front of this movement and I think it will take another 15 to 20 years before any large group of the magic community will notice. This is magic that has huge setups (think days, weeks, or months) the effect may take the course of days to witness and it is only performed for small groups of people. These are presentations and effects that are almost impossible to film, but leave a lasting impression on the audience.
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