Who should we emulate, exactly?

Dec 14, 2007
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A praetoritevong said, that depends largely on the individual, does it not? On general principle, I find it expedient to listen to all opinions and create a sort of tableau. I watch for patterns to emerge and from there I can adapt.

It was suggested that in order for magic to be taken seriously we must emulate those in the public eye.

So - where on that continuum did they seem to aim, where did they hit, why and should that be the approach we advocate to magicians (including ourselves)?

You have made posts which seem to suggest that those "in the know" have tainted opinions are are not the one's to strive to please. Let's make this conversation about specifics and action plans.

Given the magicians in the public eye - where have they landed on that continuum and which model would we encourage other magicians to emulate?
 
Dec 14, 2007
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I didn't read it, Brad. Not until after posting.


Guys give it a rest. This is so idiotic. Do your own freaking thing. You having not convinced someone else of your views does not hinder your success in following them.

You were able to deduce that the thread was idiotic AND that no one has managed to convince anyone of anything BEFORE you even read it?

Along with some of the mind reading attempts we saw earlier, I find that amazing.

Ultimately, why should you care what I and a handful of others choose to discuss? Of course this will not interest everyone - just as I have no need to look at discussions asking about what backs of cards are the kewlest, or when the next hyped DVD will come out.

However, even though I see NO value at all in those types of threads (except to those who stand to make money off the presales) I all those people to fill their heart and minds with what they think are important.

I find this topic interesting and (when on topic) important. I think choosing models is a critical step for any student. I studied with one of the greatest trumpet teachers who ever lived, and he constantly impressed upon us the importance of listening and studying those who were better than us. In fact, he said, if you can listen to a recording of a great musician and then, when listening to yourself, can hear the difference, someday you could become as great as they.

The problem, he pointed out, is when someone listens to a great and themselves and CANNOT hear a difference.

So true.

On a related note: he never once suggested we listen to people more well known than us, though sometimes that just happened to be true. In fact, one noted trumpet player was not at all respected because, ironically, his award winning album burned through miles of tape in order to make it's final version. In other words, that trumpet player could not perform the songs he won for in real life.

Unlike magicians who take this path, he only did that once. He realized that people attending the concerts were disappointed that he could not live up to the level of virtuosity he had implied he possessed. He also knew that he had lost a lot of people's respect and this was not a direction he wanted to encourage others to take.

As my teacher said, "I will edit to save a great performance, not create one."

We listened to lots of great trumpet players, some the public NEVER heard of. But our goals were not to get famous. Our goals were to develop skill, hone talent, and cultivate a musical ear.

Then, after one developed the requisite skills on their instrument did one think about getting a job, or doing a recital, or fame.

SO, who should be our models and why?

That's the central question and one that can have profound impact on any student or artist.
 
Sep 1, 2007
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You have made posts which seem to suggest that those "in the know" have tainted opinions are are not the one's to strive to please. Let's make this conversation about specifics and action plans.

A little defensive, I think, but I can roll with it.

A recurring pattern I've noticed is that artists' knowledge tends to alter our perceptions. This is not an inherently bad thing. It can however lead to people being unable to step out of their own heads. A lot of things can lead to that sort of tunnel vision or close-mindedness, this is just one of many factors. Hence why I try to keep my ear open to anything and everything. It makes it harder to take things for granted.

In regards to Criss Angel, I do not condone his more recent actions or behavior. However I do recognize in him an opportunist. That I feel I can learn from. Similarly, I see great potential when combined with David Blaine's populist ideas and Cyril Takayama's adaptability.

Keep in mind, these are models from a practical, business perspective. In terms of actual artistry, I use different criteria.
 
Dec 14, 2007
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No defensiveness intended, I just want to make this a conversation that has roots in names, places, and actionable ideas.

Allow me to clarify my question. You may have answered it, but I want to make sure I understand. (And I'm not being a jerk and trying to trap you in a corner, I'm sincerely trying to avoid confusion and conflation.)

When it comes specifically to finding the balance between artistic goals and popular/commercial success, which modern day name magician do you feel hit the right mark or has achieved the correct balance?

I appreciate your last line where you mention artistry having different criterion - but that's exactly the point I am trying to address.

Can you ever separate the purely business from the artistic - is not our "work", our "work?"

Sure, Angel hustles like no one else. And as far as business goals, that's a big deal. But we all know people who are all business and no content. Hacks that make a lot of money doing shows once. The real world does not see the back room deals. Likewise, many are unaware of the cleverness that a particular choice may have from an artistic perspective.

So, there will always be a balance that each of us has to find. I don't think we can separate them - our choices ARE who we are.

So, looking at the totality of that which is perceived by the audience, which magic star today hits what you feel is the right balance between appealing to the sensibilities of an informed cognoscenti who appreciates the subtlety of their work on a rarefied and trained level AND playing only to popular trends, manipulating pr, and using marketing strategies to sell a product that may be devoid of content, taste, or anything other than a quest for fame and fortune?

(NOTE: when I say cognoscenti I do not limit that purely to magicians evaluating technique. I mean all people interested in the artistic, social, and historical aspects of a work as apart from merely "did it entertain me."
 
Sep 1, 2007
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Can you ever separate the purely business from the artistic - is not our "work", our "work?"

I believe so, yes. I think the divide mainly comes because the two types seldom make an effort to speak one another's language. It's an idea I've picked up from my father. He's a consultant who specializes in making businesses more effective rather than efficient. To default to my film analogies again, compare Harvey Weinstein to the majority of producers working today.

Harvey saw Kevin Smith's no-budget day-in-the-life-of comedy about two slackers working crap jobs and decided to put it in theaters around the country. Conversely, most producer meetings I imagine go something like this:

"Here's an idea. Let's take that Spider-Man and give him a gritty reboot set in high school."
"Brilliant! Pass the cocaine."

So, looking at the totality of that which is perceived by the audience, which magic star today hits what you feel is the right balance between appealing to the sensibilities of an informed cognoscenti who appreciates the subtlety of their work on a rarefied and trained level AND playing only to popular trends, manipulating pr, and using marketing strategies to sell a product that may be devoid of content, taste, or anything other than a quest for fame and fortune?

First name that comes to my mind would be a toss up between Derren Brown and Cyril Takayama. Derren managed to create an act that was fresh and new using otherwise familiar material and has been promoting himself very smartly. Cyril learned the hard way how to hustle and survive the politics endemic to the industry, but never lost his connection to the masses that he achieved while struggling just to eat on the streets of Tokyo.
 
Dec 14, 2007
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What traits about or choices made by Cyril and Derren do you think allow them to connect with their audiences and stay relevant? Is there anything in particular you can identify?

I don't think it is hard to see what artistic choices they have made which are clever and substantive.

So, let's break about their "popularity" quotient.

Both men are clearly popular. So - why them? What are they doing or what about them makes them so?

(ideas from anyone are always welcome)
 
Sep 1, 2007
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The most obvious answer with Cyril is that a lot of his effects make a certain internal sense. Everyone knows about the burger out of a menu. I told a guy who had never heard of Cyril about that and he said, "If I could do that, I'd basically never stop." Though not his entire repertoir, Cyril frequently uses concepts like that. The audience responds saying, "I would do that!" So when he does something more orthodox like an ACR, we're already willing to indulge. And even then, he puts little twists on the material. He performed Paul Harris's UV Nightshades with a variant ending of wiping the shades off on a tissue. Which he then set on fire. It goes up in a puff of flames and a real pair of Ray-Bans are in his hand. Hot damn! That's something that anybody can get their head around.

Derren on the other hand seems to play on people's fascination with the human mind. Not everybody wants to study psychology, but most people are intrigued to learn little tidbits about how the mind works. Probably because we all have one. He's using standard material, but dressed up in multiple layers of deception that actually makes his line of bull**** sound possible... even plausible.

How many magicians are attempting to do something that topical, relevant, or intriguing?
 
Apr 5, 2009
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What traits about or choices made by Cyril and Derren do you think allow them to connect with their audiences and stay relevant? Is there anything in particular you can identify?

I don't think it is hard to see what artistic choices they have made which are clever and substantive.

So, let's break about their "popularity" quotient.

Both men are clearly popular. So - why them? What are they doing or what about them makes them so?

(ideas from anyone are always welcome)

their performances have meaning to the public. the things they do have meaning. its like the first have of Darwin Ortiz's book strong magic. you have to make them care about what your doing

and they know how to play the system and talk business.

the combination is deadly.
 
Dec 14, 2007
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What you have described relates to material selection. In both men, we have amazing phenomena which are rooted in reality. While derren may not be accomplishing his effects using the methods he allows the audience to assume, they can all be seen as displays of skill.

I do not know about cyril's overt premises, however as you have pointed out, a lot of his work especially that which has been seen online by millions has not only an organic nature to it but a clear internal logic.

So, we can say that intentionality and clarity of premise is exhibited by both. Do other tv magic stars do this better? Worse?

What of personailty and character traits? How are they about relating to the audience? How do they go about doing that?
 
Apr 5, 2009
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So, we can say that intentionality and clarity of premise is exhibited by both. Do other tv magic stars do this better? Worse?

i don't see too much power in the meaning or much creativity in the premise of Angel effects. i feel as though Criss's strength was how he may have USED to relate to his audience.
 
I am more familiar with Derren's work than Cyril's, so I'll speak what my thoughts are on him.

Derren seems to have chosen his character, dress, and material based on what he'd most like to see in a performer. I believe it was in Pure Effect when he mentioned his realization that his approach to magic was wrong; that he was basically offering something not worthwhile and should have expected his audience to treat it as such.

This seems to have led him toward performance pieces that he connects with on a very real level. Derren comes off as genuinely caring about what he is doing, and believing there is an element of reality behind any trickery he might be accused of.

I also find it interesting that he did not come out of the closet until recently, when his popularity was already cemented. Had he declared his sexuality earlier in his career, perhaps he'd have faced more obstacles in his road to success...?
 
Sep 1, 2007
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To this day I have not seen anyone on TV do things as clearly and practically as Cyril and Derren. I suppose in David Blaine's case it could be given a pass as his character is a sort of urban shaman. His neutral expressions and monotone voice are meant to create an air of mystery, a man whose motives are difficult to fathom and perhaps known only to himself. In that regard, the austerity of his performance actually intrigues people. It's specifically the lack of information that makes him so enthralling.

Cyril seems to have a sense of wonder about him. There's a youthful energy to his performances mixed with a cultured maturity. He's openly a big fan of Spider-Man, he's playful, and has that winning smile you seldom see outside of children. There's a strong appeal to that.

Derren is a seriously charming SOB. He's polite, cultured, urbane, witty, and humble. We admire his modesty and the obvious regard he has for other people and their comfort and happiness. It wouldn't matter if he was doing magic or not, he's still somebody you could sit and listen to talk about anything.

Criss gave himself some good momentum early on by having a very recognizable personal style. His blending of heavy metal and industrial aesthetics with outrageous material and presentations was very distinct from anything being done at the time. He portrayed himself as something more than human. Unfortunately, he didn't really evolve so much as slack off.

I also find it interesting that he did not come out of the closet until recently, when his popularity was already cemented. Had he declared his sexuality earlier in his career, perhaps he'd have faced more obstacles in his road to success...?

It's possible. I've seen more than a few knuckle-dragging morons in the magic community who suddenly decided they hated him when he came out.
 
Dec 14, 2007
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I see more ridicule toward blaine and angel than I do toward derren and cyril. The few jokes I have seen at derren's expense have been of the type you would expect any celebrity to receive, none of the "douchebag" type of thing.

Could this clarity that both men exhibit be an element in elevating them above the stones being thrown at other "magic men?"

What about their styles?

Seems to me Derren and Cyril are the most normal of the lot. Perhaps their reliance on normal, organic plots motivated from genuine needs and desires makes them less reprehensible to some than staged, random, stunts that are contrived on the best of days?

Sure, no one would really obtain a hamburger by pulling it out of a sign, but at least it speaks to the satiation of hunger.

Who would ever drop themselves into a ball of water or voluntarily attempt any of the "death" stunts we see?

Perhaps audiences relate to people who seem to merely be working with what is in the environment, but push back when we are told that this incredibly contrived scenario that has been built and designed by the magicians team will be somehow turn out to be anything other than what they planned for it to be all along - in spite of how they try to convince us there is risk involved?

Kind of spit balling here but I think there is truth.

Copperfield got critical push back for exactly these sorts of things - maybe the public doesn't really respond well when told that this specially crafted and built device is really extreme and dangerous.

Thoughts?
 
Dec 14, 2007
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i don't see too much power in the meaning or much creativity in the premise of Angel effects. i feel as though Criss's strength was how he may have USED to relate to his audience.

What has changed? What did he do then that allowed him to relate? Has he changed? Has his audience?
 
Are you saying that maybe to the public, obviously designed and built illusions are less effective than a performance built around what is organically tied to the venue?

I would agree. I have shied away from "boxy" magic for this reason; I worry that the fact that the prop is built solely for the show and exists for no other reason in the real world detracts.

I think this logic holds up even with props that DID exist in society but fell away, like the ball/vase or the color changing feather dusters. It's different now, makes less sense.

The ability to relate to the performer and the performance is tied to the ability to relate to what is being used to bring about the inexplicable. Pulling endless silks from a square circle with Asian artwork on the side probably does not fit that bill as far as this discussion is concerned.

Being a member of the local club, it pains me to see that almost all of my clubmates are nostalgic for these routines using old, outdated apparatus, and will not let them go nor will they alter them because of the beauty of the props.
 
Dec 14, 2007
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That may be taking it one inch too far.

I don't think the public has a problem with magic boxes as long as the magician is honest they are magic boxes.

I think the issue is in trying to claim that these Xtreme stunts are dangerous and risky when they are also clearly designed, engineered and rehearsed.

I think the public is ok with us using tricks. People like tricks.

I think they might be pushing back when we are screaming at them that what we are doing is dangerous or real, when at heart they know it's a tv show and it's all staged.

Oddly, I think this is why jackass worked - they werent doing their stunts inside a specially built plastic bubble. They werent screaming at us how extreme things were. They just kind of did it and let us fill in the gaps. They even called themselves JACKASS, a somewhat self deprecating title.

Maybe - never watched the show much, but did like the movies.

again, just exploring ideas. Not committed yet
 
Apr 5, 2009
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What has changed? What did he do then that allowed him to relate? Has he changed? Has his audience?

i think its a combination of the two. he is starting to be affected by the fame and recognition he receives or has received. and his audience that knew him when he was new and fresh and fell in love with him is growing up.

but those are just conjecture and guesswork. i'm not a follower of mind freak and i don't follow him on twitter. haha
 
Sep 1, 2007
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Seems to me Derren and Cyril are the most normal of the lot. Perhaps their reliance on normal, organic plots motivated from genuine needs and desires makes them less reprehensible to some than staged, random, stunts that are contrived on the best of days?

Or it could simply be easier to make fun of.
 
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