Why Use Mechanical Magic

Having raised the topic of mechanics, some special comment on this branch of methodology is necessary, since it has fallen widely into disfavor.

In some circumstances mechanical means can be more efficient than manipulation, and it is important not to lose sight of that fact. Otherwise, you cannot adopt the best method for the effect you wish to create. Nevertheless, mechanical methods have become unpopular with many magicians. There are several reasons for this:

1) Because mechanical magic frequently seems self-working, it appeals to those magicians who don't wish to practice. They believe that the apparatus can do the work for them. Of course, this isn't so. Consequendy, mechanical magic is often performed

Contrary to common belief, apparatus that appears "normal" does not automatically escape suspicion, if the apparatus obviously performs the effect or does something to aid it. Giving fast rules for determining when this will occur is hard; but the mechanical principle has failed when the audience sees something inexplicable happen with a prop and thinks, "Oh, its just some mechanical thing that I don't completely understand." Just because the apparatus appears normal doesn't guarantee that its function and use won't cry out, "I'm gimmicked!"

If one hides mechanical apparatus so that it isn't apparent, you can produce an effect that looks as magical as manipulation often looks. Indeed, mechanics can aid manipulation, making it more efficient and sometimes—though not always—easier. There are times when mechanics can increase the difficulty of performance, yet nevertheless improve the magical appearance of the effect. However, the important thing to understand is that mechanics are not necessarily used to make your job easier; they are simply a tool to be applied to achieve your goal in the best way possible. Sometimes they do just that; at other times another tool is better for the task.

I hope that now it is clear that, while mechanical methods are grossly underestimated by many of today's magicians, the reasons for this unpopularity are based on misconceptions. I like mechanical apparatus and gimmicks, and as one of the three pillars of magic, I will not foolishly sacrifice such a powerful tool. Instead, I combine mechanics with psychology and manipulation to achieve the best illusion.

A good example of this is "The Ring, the Watch and the Wallet", which is to a great extent mechanical. Yet, psychology and manipulative handling are integral to the success of the effect. Consider just the vanish of the three objects from the envelope: The money is vanished through palming aided by mechanics (the mechanics eliminating the need for finger motion); the ring genuinely goes into the envelope; and the watch never goes in. So each object is vanished in a different way, applying all three principles—psychology, manipulation and mechanics—at different times to achieve an astonishing effect.

This trick could not be done purely by mechanics or purely by manipulation or purely by psychology. It is these principles in combination, the Three Pillars of Magic, that make the deception so successful. When all three are employed with care and intelligence, the method behind the magic becomes entirely invisible, leaving only the mystery to be enjoyed.

E live in hectic times.

I realize this could just as well have been written three hundred years ago, but it is certainly no less true today. We want things to move quickly, impatience reigns, instant gratification seems to be king, and "results now" is our credo!

But whatever the times may be, instant results are not feasible with everything. Some things need time, no matter how you approach them, how hard you work or how fast. The latest technology and insights wont accelerate them. Certain things just take time.

I believe that learning magic, no matter how much determination you put into it, no matter how many (seeming) short cuts you take, will take time. Although it is open to debate, I'm convinced that learning magic is not a straight path, moving up from the bottom toward the top, to full knowledge. Instead, I believe, it is circular. It starts at the beginning, the most elementary ideas, proceeds through difficult and complex concepts to reach the extremely difficult, then slowly grows simpler and simpler yet, until the student possesses full mastery, which enables him to once more do magic in a simple manner. Mastery is achieved with the completion of the circle, finishing where you started.

I was led to this theory by my own experience. Shordy after taking up magic I found myself developing material that had more and more protections built in, more and more litde ploys; and the magic became less direct. At the same time it also became more and more difficult—but it worked for me. The extra details helped me to achieve a certain type of deceptiveness.

It has only been within the past ten years that I have come to know that I am increasingly capable of accomplishing things with greater simplicity. That I am more capable ol doing things simply is a direct result of the experience gained in my earlier years. Now 1 understand with greater clarity why things work, what the essence of deception is, what ] really need to do to make my work deceptive and what I dont need to do. I also know more surely the power of directing attention and I better understand the power of presentation I now see more clearly what those things can do and what they cannot. All this, which wa

gained from experience rather than theoretical knowledge, came from my doing complicated and at times quite difficult magic. Because I now have a greater knowledge of these things, I have become able to leave all kinds of things out, because now I know what I'm leaving out. I can choose a straighter route without forsaking the essentials.

This knowledge isn't based on unfamiliarity with complicated concepts and principles. To omit complications you can't be ignorant of them. Going full circle in your magical education brings you into contact with the whole range of possibilities and teaches their full power, so that finally you will understand how to handle them in a way that reaps their maximum strength. This learning is not just intellectual but physical as well. It is not something that can be comprehended through thinking alone; it must be experienced to be fully understood. Therefore, it cannot be glossed or passed over. You can't say, "Okay, if the simple way of doing things is the best and most desirable way, that is what I'll practice from this day forward." It can't be done. Without experience of the whole range of possibilities, from the simple to the highly complex, you won't be able to omit the complications and still reap the maximum from what is left. You must know the power of what you don't do as well as that of what you do do.

One of the best examples of this I can think of is the way Albert Goshman vanished a coin. It would be very hard to simplify the way he pretended to transfer the coin from his right hand into his left. The right hand made a simple tossing motion and the left made a catching motion, but the hands did not meet, and the coin wasn't actually seen flying to the left hand. Yet the motions were completely convincing. It was much, much simpler than a French drop or a retention vanish, or any other vanish I know of. I wouldn't know how to make a vanish more simple! Yes, the vanish requires careful timing; but physically it isn't at all difficult. Anyone can learn it rather quickly, as it is much easier than many other vanishes. It would seem that such a simple procedure would be perfect for a beginner—but it isn't. It would be a huge challenge for a beginner to make this vanish totally deceptive.

You could argue that for this vanish to be effective, a certain confidence, a calmness and terrific timing are needed. Things that can't be expected of a beginner. This is true, but I believe there is more to it than confidence, calmness and timing. Apart from these qualities it requires something that defies definition. It requires whatever it is that makes one a master; and that whatever is something gained by progressing through the full circle of development. It can't be achieved direcdy; there is no short cut. It takes time. The attainment of mastery cannot be forced.

This principle of mastery through maturation is not exclusive to magic. It is found in many other arts and crafts. It certainly isn't a popular or comfortable thought for those seeking instant gratification and fast results.

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