Musical Mindreading

In 1948 David bought Musico, a musical mindreading effect, from Ham leys magic department. A pack of cards bearing the names of popular tunes were shuffled by a spectator and dropped into a box. Another spectator looked at the top card of the shuffled pack and thought of the tune. The performer named it or, preferably, played it on a piano. The trick could be repeated several times.

The secret was simple. The box had a shallow recess underneath in which three or four cards were kept hidden. When the spectator had finished shuffling the cards, the performer casually placed the box briefly on top of the shuffled pack, secretly adding the preset cards.

The spectator was then asked to put the shuffled cards inside the box. The performer now knew the tunes of the top few cards of the pack and could name them as they were removed. Better still he could mentally transmit the tunes to a musically accomplished partner who would play them on the piano.

David had always had an interest in music and though largely self-taught could play a wide variety of instruments to a reasonable level. He used Musico quite a number of times, playing the thought of tunes on a piano at parties.

Later he developed more elaborate versions of the routine. He performed one of them in 1950 as he was travelling back by ship on the Pretoria Castle, from South Africa to England. Also on board were Sir Winston Churchill and his wife Lady Clementine, who had joined the ship at Madeira.

David gave an impromptu performance and the Churchills were in the audience. Someone had selected a tune and David asked them to concentrate on it. "Will you please just think of the main theme of the tune? The opening few bars," requested David. He concentrated and the spectator did the same. After a few unsuccessful attempts he said, in an exasperated way, "Now look, you're putting in a lot of twiddly bits. Can you just leave it to the main theme of the tune? Do you understand?" The spectator said he did and concentrated again. David sat at the piano and plucked out a few notes, gradually the notes became a familiar tune. As soon as the band recognised the tune they joined in and played the last few bars.

The next day David was introduced to the Churchills. Sir Winston was a bit on the dour side but Lady Clementine was delighted with the mindreading feat. "Isn't it a nuisance when people put in those twiddly bits?," she said in all seriousness. She was genuinely annoyed at the spectator's unhelpful mode of concentration!

The "twiddly bits" remained a favourite part of David's presentation. Over the years he acquired a number of musical instruments, usually bought at second-hand shops, and created a special musical mind reading act that he used throughout the mid-fifties, both in nightclubs and on television.

The stage for the act was set when a waiter or other staff member wheeled a large console onto the cabaret floor. This was specially made to display all the instruments to their best effect. The audience saw about a dozen musical instruments including a clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, accordion and trombone. Prominently displayed at the back was a full size drum kit. They presumed that a band was to make its appearance and were quite surprised when just one man was announced and David walked on.

He drew the audience's attention to a special menu on their tables, saying, "As you can see on your tables you have a list of one hundred popular tunes. I'm sure you know most of them." Then he asked for some volunteers and invited one of them to think of a tune, saying, "Look through the list, find one that you know well and think of it. I'll come back to you in a minute." Turning to the other side of the club David called out the names of the instruments displayed on the console and then asked another spectator to think of one. "I want you to think of one of these instruments. Try not to stare at it or give me any clues at all. Think of the

David's Musical Mindreading, two frames from a television appearance.

shape, think of what it looks like and try to transmit it to me."

Passing his hand slowly back and forth over the instruments he asked the spectator to concentrate. Eventually he stopped at one and picked it up. It was the thought of instrument.

The first spectator concentrated on his tune and after some faltering notes David played the main theme, minus the "twiddly bits" of course. The band joined in as soon as they could and played the last few rousing bars before finishing. This musical divination was repeated several times with different instruments and different tunes with equal success.

The routine that seemed so spontaneous was the result of careful pre-show work. About twenty minutes before he was due to appear David walked into the cabaret room dressed casually so as not to attract undue attention. Then, much like a close-up worker, he walked up to the guests at one of the tables and introduced himself, saying, "Can I join you for a minute? I will be entertaining you later on." Having sat down at the table he asked one of the spectators to help during the show by thinking of a musical instrument. He brought out a pack of picture cards, each showing a different instrument, shuffled them and had one chosen. What the spectator didn't know was that the card had been Classic Forced. The same procedure was repeated at two other tables so that David knew which three instruments would be thought-of during the show. He preferred to force the instruments he enjoyed playing most but if working for more than one night at the venue he would be sure to change them for each performance.

The choice of the tunes was handled in the same manner, with a second pack of cards so that three different tunes were forced on three different people. Aside from forcing the cards he had to make sure he knew which spectator sat where and that they hadn't left the

room before the show. These same spectators would raise their hands along with other volunteers during the show and David would pretend to pick them out of the crowd at random.

The routine finished with a novel finale. "Finally we are going to play some rhythms," said David as he showed the audience a packet of cards. Fach card had a musical style noted upon it: Tango, March, Swing, Waltz, Rumba etc. There were eight or nine different rhythms in all. A spectator shuffled the cards and then held them between his hands.

"The band is going to play a tune and I'm going to play the drums. Would someone please call out a number from your Musical Menus." They did, it was number 36, which according to the list was Whispering. He turned to the band and asked them to follow him as he beat out the rhythms on the drums. Together they played Whispering, David leading with a rumba beat. Suddenly he changed the beat to a march and then a waltz, the band quickly following. Another spectator wrote down each rhythm on a large board as soon as he recognised it. The audience joined in the spirit of the game too and called out the names of the rhythms. David changed the rhythm several more times but invariably finished on a jazzy swing rhythm that enabled him to go into a fast drum break and draw a spontaneous round of applause.

When the tune was finished there was a list of seven or eight rhythms on the board. David asked the spectator holding the shuffled cards to read them out in order. They matched exactly which was no surprise to David because he had switched the shuffled packet before handing it to the spectator!

The audience found it fascinating, more fascinating than David in fact because the act had one major logistical problem as far as he was concerned, transportation. There were simply

A publicity portrait for Musical Mindreading.

too many instruments to carry about from venue to venue. It worked well on television but became too cumbersome for cabaret work.

He thought the problem was solved when the Clavioline came onto the market. It was a small two and a half octave electronic keyboard that could be attached to any piano. At the flick of a switch it could imitate many of the instruments. David used the sounds of the Clarinet, Saxophone, Violin, Trumpet, Flute and others. It wasn't perfect. Some tunes worked better than others and a piece suitable for the Violin might not sound so good when played on the Vibraphone setting of the Clavioline. But other than that it seemed the perfect solution. It was relatively inexpensive, easy to transport, versatile and bang up to date.

It was all of those things but, as David discovered, held no appeal for the audience. They enjoyed seeing the actual instruments glittering in the console. They enjoyed the real live music as opposed to the synthetic noise that came from the Clavioline and, most of all, they enjoyed watching David play. By the time he discovered this most of the instruments had been disposed of and the musical mindreading act was consigned to the past never to be revived.

The Art Of Cold Reading

The Art Of Cold Reading

Today I'm going to teach you a fundamental Mentalism technique known as 'cold reading'. Cold reading is a technique employed by mentalists and charlatans and by charlatan I refer to psychics, mediums, fortune tellers or anyone that claims false abilities that is used to give the illusion that the person has some form of super natural power.

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