Reasons for Displaying Skill

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Those who oppose using flourishes usually imply that anyone who performs them does so solely to gratify his ego. In fact, there are good reasons why a magician might choose to perform flourishes or other skill displays that have nothing to do with ego. This is not to deny that some flourish users might be motivated by ego. But the fact that someone does something for the wrong reasons doesn't mean that there aren't also good reasons for doing the same thing. There are people who perform magic solely for ego gratification. That doesn't mean that performing magic is a bad thing. Let's just agree that performing either magic or flourishes for ego gratification is bad. This tells us nothing» however, about whether performing either magic or flourishes is inherently bad. Here are four good reasons why even a non-egotistical magician might decide to use flourishes;

Pleasing the Audience

The first perfectly legitimate reason lor performing displays of skill is that audiences enjoy them. This is a very inconvenient fact for the anti-flourish crowd, but a fact nonetheless. We are, after all, in the business of pleasing audiences» Therefore, unless there is an overriding reason to avoid skill displays, this is all the justification any magician needs for including them in his performances.

Aesthetic Appeal

A second legitimate reason for performing flourishes is that they can be very attractive, thereby enhancing the aesthetic appeal of your performance. This is my own primary reason for using flourishes in my shows.

Mike Skinner was the first magician to make me realize this aspect of flourishes. His performances were beautiful quite apart from the magic because of his sprinkling of small, elegant flourishes throughout. (I often heard Dai Vernon criticize Mike for this. If you believe in argument by authority, you may think this constitutes a reason for avoiding flourishes. The day I see a layman perform a wand-spin flourish I'll take Vernon's comments on this point more seriously.)

Psychological Misdirection

Projecting an image of skill is a powerful tool when doing a self-working effect. Whenever I perform Mexican Poker (a self-working gambling routine from Darwin Ortiz at the Card Table) I always precede it with one or two gambling routines that obviously require great sleight-of-hand skill. When I go into Mexican Poker, the audience is looking for more of the same. This ensures that they'll overlook the mathematical basis of the effect.

Furthermore, the obviously fair and open handling precludes sleight of hand, leaving them with no possible explanation.

The same holds true for the use of gaffs. If you've previously established your sleight-of-hand credentials by performing gambling routines or flourishes, that's the only explanation the audience will be looking for. The possibility of trick cards will be far from their minds. When things start happening that sleight of hand can't account for, the audience will have no choice but to conclude that they're witnessing a miracle.

This psychology also works in the opposite direction. II the audience doesn't give you credit lor skill, trick cards is the first explanation they're likely to latch onto—even il the effect is actually based on pure skill. I, for one, don't find that an appealing prospect.

Gaining Respect for Magic

"A lot of the public s ktch of Tesj>ect for -magic is caused by the perception that magic is easy to do' and 'anybody can do magic.1"

John Carney, MAGIC (February, 2001)

I've heard magicians argue that some people don't like magic because they resent the fact that the magician can do something they can't. If this is so, why doesn't it happen in other areas of entertainment? Recently my wife and 1 went to the Kennedy Center to see the great flamenco guitarist Paco De Lucia. I assure you that he was doing things with his guitar that no one in the audience could do. So why didn't they resent it? Why, instead, did they give him one of the longest standing ovations I've ever witnessed?

In fact, virtually any time an audience goes to see live entertainment they're going to watch someone do something they can't. This is true whether the performer is a singer, pianist, actor, dancer, etc. They don't seem to resent the person's skills. Indeed, the fact that they're going to see something they can't do themselves is a big part ol why they go.

I believe that the real reason some people resent magicians is because they d<m.*t realize that the magician is doing something they can't. Instead they think the magician is doing something they could do if only they knew the secret. They don't realize that what separates the magician from them is talent, skill, and years of practice and study (as the audience at the Paco De Lucia concert did realize). They think that the only thing that separates the magician from them is that he knows the secret and they don't. Why should he get so much credit just for that? These people don't feel that the magician has really earned his applause. Should he receive an ovation just because he read a magic book that they didn't or bought some trick in a joke shop?

When it comes to the arts, what the average person respects is craft. That's why, rightly or wrongly, so many people are contemptuous of abstract art and other forms of modern art. They simply can't detect any craft in it. A person will look at a Jackson Pollock drip-painting and observe, "Why, my five-year old son could do that." This, in the mind of the average person, is the ultimate put-down of any artist or performer. The message is clear: Why do you expect appreciation for something that anyone could dot

As long as people think that anyone could do what you're doing if only they knew the secret, you'll be in the same predicament as Rodney Dangerfield. Even if they enjoy your performance, they won't respect it.

One way to ensure that magic gets the respect that most of us believe it deserves is for the performer to subtly educate the audience to the fact that what they're seeing is the result of hard-earned skill and study. Many professional magicians have discovered that the judicious use of displays of skill (flourishes, gambling demonstrations, etc.) can aid in this regard. Indeed, even most of the anti-flourish crowd concedes that most successful professionals use flourishes and other skill demonstrations. They often dismiss this fact with the comment that pros have to take the easy route; they have to go for the lowest common denominator.

Is it possible that this condescending attitude is wrong? Is it just remotely possible that professionals have learned from experience how to earn an audience's respect for themselves and their art?

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Fundamentals of Magick

Fundamentals of Magick

Magick is the art and practice of moving natural energies to effect needed or wanted change. Magick is natural, there is absolutely nothing supernatural about it. What is taught here are various techniques of magick for beginners. Magick is natural and simple and the techniques to develop abilities should be simple and natural as well. What is taught on this site is not only the basics of magick, but the basics of many things.

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