Which is more important to you?

Which emotion do you most desire to create through your magic?

  • Astonishment

    Votes: 4 25.0%
  • Amusement

    Votes: 2 12.5%
  • Bafflement

    Votes: 1 6.3%
  • Shock

    Votes: 1 6.3%
  • Happiness

    Votes: 6 37.5%
  • Something else (add one word reply)

    Votes: 2 12.5%

  • Total voters
    16

RealityOne

Elite Member
Nov 1, 2009
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I think it is best to evoke multiple emotions through a magic performance: amusement, silliness, a groan at a we'll played pun, a bit of unease or discomfort, thoughtfulness, compassion, affection, reflection, joy, worry and release. Eugene Burger talked about having "texture" to a magic show. That applies in the nature of effects and the emotions evoked.

I try to design performances as if the audience is playing a game with me. Not a game where I know the secret and they try to guess it, but a game of imagination. It is an invitation into an imagination where anything is possible - a curated dream sequence going from irreality to irreality engaging the senses, the mind and emotion. Like a dream, they know it isn't real, but like a dream their memory of how they felt remains very real.

Why single emotion does a good movie provoke??
 
Sep 7, 2022
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I don't think movies and magic can be usefully compared. It's like comparing juggling to literature They are quite different artforms.

However, if I had to say what one key emotion was paramount as a movie's aim, I'd day it depends upon the genre: so a horror film should seek to evoke either fear or dread more than anything else. If it doesn't, it could be argued to have failed as that type of film.

So although a magic performance can certainly aim to evoke a range of different emotions, what is the key emotion magic should evoke (without which it may be argued to have failed to be magic)? It seems to me that astonishment should be the primary aim of magic. It's what sets it apart from, say, a good novel or stand-up comedy act. If some other emotion is the primary goal then it seems magic isn't the best tool. If I want to make someone cry, music would seem better. But then again, there's plenty of depressing magic. Maybe I'm wrong.
 

RealityOne

Elite Member
Nov 1, 2009
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I don't think movies and magic can be usefully compared. It's like comparing juggling to literature They are quite different artforms.

Think of "The Rise of Skywalker" and how amazing and believable the special effects were. Then think about how vapid the ending of the plot was. Nobody cared that Ben died, nobody felt anything about Emperor Palpatine as he emerged from his Voldomort like existence and nobody felt anything for Ray as she triumphed. My reaction was, well, I guess they had to come up with something for an ending.

Compare that to the incinerator scene in Toy Story 3. We know animation is a series of pictures drawn to give the illusion of motion and we know that toys are not alive. Nonetheless, the audience felt both fear and sorrow at the potential death of animated toys.

Think about how that applies to magic.

As for juggling, I've seen some amazing juggling at Circ de Soleil and with fire in Hawaii that evoked wonderful emotions. I've read some New York Times bestsellers that have evoked the emotional and intellectual equivalent of eating paste.

However, if I had to say what one key emotion was paramount as a movie's aim, I'd day it depends upon the genre: so a horror film should seek to evoke either fear or dread more than anything else. If it doesn't, it could be argued to have failed as that type of film.

The better answer is that there isn't ONE emotion. A good horror movie has it's light moments, it has its building and releasing of tension, it has it's intellectual moments (figuring out what is happening and why), it has it moments of kinship and moments of bravery (and typically moments of stupidity where you scream at the characters to not open "that door"). Every other good movie exhibits a variety of emotions.

It seems to me that astonishment should be the primary aim of magic.

Define astonishment.

I'm guessing it is the reaction to seeing something that is impossible. If that is the case, you logic is circular (defining magic as demonstrating something impossible, saying that astonishment is the best reaction to magic and then defining astonishment as the reaction to seeing something impossible).

If some other emotion is the primary goal then it seems magic isn't the best tool.

A tool is only as good as the craftsman.
 
Sep 7, 2022
33
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So you really don't believe that there is a primary evocative goal in magic performance? Fair enough. I guess we will have to agree to disagree on that.

I think causing astonishment is paramount. It's possible to imagine a magic act where there are highly amusing anecdotes but the tricks are lacklustre, and where 70% of the time of the act is dedicated to storytelling and only 30% to effects. In that case, I'd say they likely majored on the wrong thing and chose the wrong performative tool (magic) for their goals. But I guess we disagree. Which is fair enough 🙂
 

WitchDocIsIn

Elite Member
Sep 13, 2008
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Some time ago, I believe on these forums, I asked what made magic different or unique from any other performing art. I still don't know if there is anything that makes it genuinely unique.

To that end - I think the ultimate goal of magic is the same as pretty much all forms of expressive arts: Connection.

The performer puts themselves out there for the audience to see, and the audience feels connected to them through that expression.

The magic tricks are like illustrations for a story. They enhance the experience. Sometimes those illustrations will be scary, sometimes they will be funny, sometimes they will be profound.

Some magicians are aiming to get audiences clapping and cheering, some want the audience to sit in stunned silence. Some want their audience members to see them in a shop months later and say to their friend, "He traumatized me. With a doll" :D

If magic is meant to be an art like so many people claim it is, then keeping it restricted to a single goal is really hindering the artistic potential.

One of the absolute best pieces of magic I've ever seen is the ending to Derek Delgaudio's In and Of Itself. Actually that whole show is just an excellent example of what emotional power a magic show can have. It's funny, it's heartfelt, it's scary-by-proxy (when he's talking about his experiences as a child), and yes, it's astonishing when he does his reveals. But the thing I think about regularly (like multiple times a week) is the ending. Yes it's amazing, but more importantly it's profoundly empathetic and connecting. No one is reacting to the fact that he's naming the right things, they are reacting to feeling seen and understood.

"Astonishment" is ephemeral and difficult to define. It comes and goes quickly. People forget about it. But no one forgets a powerfully emotional moment.
 
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RealityOne

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Nov 1, 2009
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I think causing astonishment is paramount. It's possible to imagine a magic act where there are highly amusing anecdotes but the tricks are lacklustre, and where 70% of the time of the act is dedicated to storytelling and only 30% to effects. In that case, I'd say they likely majored on the wrong thing and chose the wrong performative tool (magic) for their goals. But I guess we disagree. Which is fair enough 🙂

Why do you assume the tricks are lackluster? There is no prohibition against having strong presentations for strong effects.

I once saw a stage magician who did 10 illusions in under five minutes at the beginning of his show. People were astonished at each one (including making a car and a small airplane appear if my memory is correct). After the show, the five people I saw the show with couldn't remember more than two of the illusions he did. I suspect people who see me perform (taking 5 minutes per effect and doing a lot of talking) remember each of my effects -- "He told the story about the girl in France and made all the eggs appear from the empty bag" or "He had envelopes from Heaven and Hell which had the other half of the spectator's torn dollar bills in them" or "That was the story about his Uncle who did magic and then the card disappeared from the deck and ended up in an empty gin bottle that was across the stage."

"Astonishment" is ephemeral and difficult to define. It comes and goes quickly. People forget about it. But no one forgets a powerfully emotional moment.

Which is why I've always thought Paul Harris's essay was appropriately titled "The Moment of Astonishment."
 
Jan 2, 2016
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One of the absolute best pieces of magic I've ever seen is the ending to Derek Delgaudio's In and Of Itself. Actually that whole show is just an excellent example of what emotional power a magic show can have. It's funny, it's heartfelt, it's scary-by-proxy (when he's talking about his experiences as a child), and yes, it's astonishing when he does his reveals. But the thing I think about regularly (like multiple times a week) is the ending. Yes it's amazing, but more importantly it's profoundly empathetic and connecting. No one is reacting to the fact that he's naming the right things, they are reacting to feeling seen and understood.
Another magician pointed out to me that that entire ending is essentially a big "pick a card, was this it?" trick but he elevates it to an entirely new level. I love I&OI so much
 
Sep 7, 2022
33
3
"Astonishment" is ephemeral and difficult to define. It comes and goes quickly. People forget about it. But no one forgets a powerfully emotional moment.

Aren't all emotions the same in that regard? They are all ephemeral. The only real difference is intensity - and intense astonishment is more memorable than weak happiness or sadness or whatever. It's not the variety of the emotion that matters for memory, it's the intensity.

Maybe it's just more difficult to cause intense astonishment through a magic trick than it is to cause intense sentimentality with a story. And so it is, in one sense, easier to give an audience an intense emotion through the aspects of a show that aren't magic than by the ones that are. Maybe magic is just a difficult tool to use for creating a powerful emotional impression.
 

WitchDocIsIn

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Sep 13, 2008
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I consider astonishment to be more ephemeral because of a couple factors. First, it's nearly impossible to put into words. Things we can't describe literally don't stay in our brains. Just like when we can't name a thing, our brain can literally just block it out of our senses.

Second, it's extremely short lived. That sort of blank minded moment of awe hits and goes away almost instantly and you're left with other emotions. Those emotions are easier to describe and last a lot longer, so that's what people remember.

I wouldn't say magic is particularly difficult, I would just say that most people don't know how to use it properly. Creating content that is meaningless but fun (I call this brain candy) isn't difficult in really any genre if you understand the medium. Music with slightly predictable patterns in the notes and lyrics are catchy. Movies with cookie cutter plots are familiar and fun. Books with relatable characters and plot points are fun to read.

But making anything that truly resonates is more difficult. Doesn't matter which medium is used, it takes careful consideration and a long process of refinement that, in my experience, most performs just don't do.
 
Sep 7, 2022
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I'm not sure I follow you. When you say astonishment is hard to put into words, or hard to describe, do you mean it's hard to label or hard to define? I'm not sure it's any easier or harder to identify or define than most other emotions. But maybe that's just me.

Shock is short-lived, that is true. But is awe short lived? I'm not sure about that. Maybe, though. I guess there's a difference between the emotion when you feel it, and the memory or the residue of the emotion afterwards. Acute pain would be a good example of that, I guess. Or fear. Is wonder any more temporary than other emotions? I'm not sure. All emotions are temporary (however long the chemistry in the brain does it's thing, I guess), but some get activated more often (love whilst with the beloved, maybe?). Eitherway, I'm not seeing a straightforward difference between astonishment and many other emotions.

As for making something that truly resonates being hard ... usually that seems true. But then sometimes it's effortless. It seems more to do with the audience than the artist. A musician might write a simple ditty off the cuff that will make a sentimental drunkard cry at the right time, whilst the most complex composition merely makes him bored. Dunno. It's far too complex for me to analyse, I think.
 

WitchDocIsIn

Elite Member
Sep 13, 2008
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Shock, awe, wonder, astonishment - these are all distinct emotions and not really interchangeable.

I suppose it can be difficult to describe other emotions as well, but when you say "happiness" very few people are confused by that. If you say "astonishment" I would argue that a lot of people have never put thought into what that is, if they've even felt it at all.

Most magic tricks on the market provoke surprise, maybe laughter, but not astonishment. Contemporary magic is focused on displaying a supposed impossibility because most of the magic industry has decided magic and impossibility are interchangeable. They are not.

A good magic show will evoke many emotions. Astonishment will be included in that range of emotions but it doesn't have to be the focus at all. It really depends on the goals of the show.
 
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Sep 7, 2022
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Shock, awe, wonder, astonishment - these are all distinct emotions and not really interchangeable.

I suppose it can be difficult to describe other emotions as well, but when you say "happiness" very few people are confused by that. If you say "astonishment" I would argue that a lot of people have never put thought into what that is, if they've even felt it at all.

Most magic tricks on the market provoke surprise, maybe laughter, but not astonishment. Contemporary magic is focused on displaying a supposed impossibility because most of the magic industry has decided magic and impossibility are interchangeable. They are not.

A good magic show will evoke many emotions. Astonishment will be included in that range of emotions but it doesn't have to be the focus at all. It really depends on the goals of the show.

I agree with all of this except the statement that 'a good magic show will evoke many emotions.' It may or may not. An intense, but singular, experience of deep astonishment is better (IMHO) than a smorgasbord of low level emotions. Quality is better than quantity here. There is something to be said also for purity of intent and focus and delivery in art, as well as richness and complexity. Both can be good.
 

RealityOne

Elite Member
Nov 1, 2009
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I agree with all of this except the statement that 'a good magic show will evoke many emotions.' It may or may not. An intense, but singular, experience of deep astonishment is better (IMHO) than a smorgasbord of low level emotions. Quality is better than quantity here. There is something to be said also for purity of intent and focus and delivery in art, as well as richness and complexity. Both can be good.

Name an effect / routine that provides an "intense, but singular, experience of deep astonishment" AND is not trivial. A card repeatedly coming to the top of a deck? A person biting a coin in half? A duck disappearing from a bucket and appearing across the stage? Three cups and three balls doing their thing? A person vanishing from a contraption on stage where spikes and flames are thrust into a box only to reappear in the middle of the audience? A dollar bill vanishing and reappearing in an orange?
 
Sep 7, 2022
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How are you using the word trivial?

I suspect all magic is trivial.

And that is OK.

Most attempts to make magic non trivial make it less astonishing and less entertaining, I think.
 

RealityOne

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Nov 1, 2009
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How are you using the word trivial?
Something without importance or significance.

I suspect all magic is trivial.

In that case, let's remove that requirement.

So, name an effect / routine that provides an "intense, but singular, experience of deep astonishment" that is performed with "purity of intent and focus and delivery in art, as well as richness and complexity"?

Most attempts to make magic non trivial make it less astonishing and less entertaining, I think.

Please provide an example.
 
Sep 7, 2022
33
3
Example of a trick that provides intense astonishment, also being pure in focus:
A bare presentation/use of an Invisible Deck as prediction effect

Example of trick made less astonishing and less entertaining by an attempt to make it less trivial:
A presentation of an Invisible Deck with a long preamble about the magicians psychic abilities discovered one stormy Halloween night during a seance where he contacted his dead uncle
 

WitchDocIsIn

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Sep 13, 2008
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Example of a trick that provides intense astonishment, also being pure in focus:
A bare presentation/use of an Invisible Deck as prediction effect

Well, see, here is where I have to just say we'll have to agree to disagree because what you're calling "intensely astonishing" I think is boring, trite, and utterly forgettable.
 
Sep 7, 2022
33
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Sure, it's all rather subjective. And as noted, I think it's hard to create astonishment in magic. First time I saw an ID prediction effect, though, I was astonished. Same with various other fairly standard tricks. Of course, I'll add it's only astonishing compared to/ in the context of magic tricks.

What tricks astonished you when you first saw them?
 

WitchDocIsIn

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Sep 13, 2008
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Honestly, the only one that comes to mind is Derek Delgaudio's closer.

I know I've been astonished before - Derren Brown, Luke Jermay, Ricky Jay, even some early David Blaine. I remember seeing the first thing I thought was magical when I was a child. A stage magician producing champagne flutes of drinks with sleeves rolled up.

But this only emphasizes my point - I know I've felt astonishment, but I couldn't tell you now what it was that caused it. I only remember the feelings the performances evoked. The feelings evoked by a show are what people will likely remember, along with maybe vague bullet points about the individual pieces performed. The presentation and the the things they feel regarding that presentation are what people will walk away with.
 
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