'Our Magic': Normal Art & High Art

All beginners in magic should address their questions here.
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Mr Hurley
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'Our Magic': Normal Art & High Art

Postby Mr Hurley » September 22nd, 2015, 11:35 pm

I've had the missus laptop today and I've been viciously reading 'Our Magic' by Maskelyne.
I got 6 E-Books from CARC back in January, and I thought I lost them all when my laptop crashed. I'd still prefer actual, corporeal books. But for now, E-books it is!

First off. Let me say that the first part regarding 'The Three Degrees in Art' left me feeling like someone lit my hair on fire. You kind of get this impression that everything you have done in magic, up to the point of reading it; you feel like a hack.
The book talks about: lower art, normal art, and higher art.

Lower art is relatively easy to interpret: Are you using someones routine, word for word; mannerism for mannerism. And using it as your own?
If so? Ta-da! Lower art.

I've been reading over the interpretation of Normal and Higher Art a few times now and I'm still confused as to where the line in the sand actually is.

From what I have come to so far: 'Normal Art' would be where you take a routine or a trick, and make some minor adjustments to it.
The part that I'm getting hung up on is the use of magic props.

Props, in magic, can only do 3 things: They work, they don't work, they eventually rust/break down/etc. Very linear in operation.
However, part of 'High Art' is the focus on completely original presentation and having said routines worked on so that, even the first time you perform, said trick and effect work so that only VERY MINOR adjustments need to be made.

With that, I do understand and agree that a skilled mechanic does require years of practice. A part of the definition of 'High Art'.

My question is this (and keep in mind, I only want to perform for children's hospitals): As a beginner, I'm using linear props to perform with and I lack real world experience (namely, I'm working with all Tenyo. I'm going to be working on cards and coins relatively soon). However, I have original presentation for all of them and a clear theme to string them all together. I have a clear idea of how I want the effects to happen; nothing complex and easy to understand.

I'm just really hung up on if the utilization of magic props are considered 'Lower Art' (as , I think, you're imitating the exact motions to acquire the result), 'Normal Art' (since you can adjust the presentation and patter beyond instructions), or 'High Art' (Since it is possible to construct a completely original routine. Nothing is impossible in this respect)

Also, is it possible, as a beginner, to perform at a level of 'High Art'? Or do we all start off at a level of 'Normal Art' and depending on our level of dedication to the art (or lack thereof), we can either achieve 'High Art' or 'Lower Art'.

Any help is greatly appreciated!

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Re: 'Our Magic': Normal Art & High Art

Postby performer » September 23rd, 2015, 4:34 am

I really love "Our Magic" by Maskelyne. It is heavy reading at times with 1910 language but it does deserve careful study.

But not yet, Mr Hurley. Not yet. It will drive you crazy and do your brain in. Enjoy your journey as a beginner and leave Our Magic until later. It is advanced stuff and advanced thinking. In my view it is out of your league at the moment.

I can't remember what it said about originality but I will say this. Originality is over rated. If you have a flair for originality then go for it providing your originality brings good rather than mediocre results. But generally speaking, particularly at your stage in the game I shouldn't worry about it too much despite what stuffy old Maskelyne said about it.

I shouldn't worry about what is High Art, Low Art, Normal Art or anything else right now. Leave that intellectual exercise for a future time. It is like telling a kid learning the piano to compose a concerto. You want to entertain children in hospital not indulge in pseudo intellectual discussions with yourself. Not right now anyway. Save that crap until later.

Don't get hung up on whether props are "Low Art" or "High Art". Just use the bloody things and don't feel guilty about it. Don't worry too much about originality. Tried and true works very well too. Test of time and all that. The kids in the hospital won't care if you are original or not and they will probably like it better if you aren't. I bet old Maskelyne would bore them stiff.

My advice to you is to make the kids LAUGH rather than concentrate on the "wonder" of magic. Kids like to laugh and if they are in hospital they need the laughter more than the magic. The tricks should just be a vehicle for them to have a good laugh. Laughter is a healing medicine.

Theory is all very well and Our Magic is brilliant theory. However, it should also be noted that the trick part of the book was written by David Devant who was a real entertainer and far better than his partner Maskelyne by all accounts. I find it interesting that he left the theory to Maskelyne and he concentrated on the entertainment.

I suggest you do likewise. All the High Art, Normal Art, and Low Art can come later. Much later. Learn to get the kids laughing first. That is your priority at this stage of the game.

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Re: 'Our Magic': Normal Art & High Art

Postby Jonathan Townsend » September 23rd, 2015, 7:53 am

Mr Hurley wrote:... 'Normal Art' would be where you take a routine or a trick, and make some minor adjustments to it.
... said trick and effect work so that only VERY MINOR adjustments need to be made.

...


Taking a trick and modifying the props, presentation and mechanics to serve your unique venue and audience is normal art. You're expected to use everything you have and know to craft your work for your performing needs.

"VERY MINOR" as in mutandis mutandi suitable changes using well established methods, principles, prop design, presentation ploys...

Discovering new effects, principles, methods, ploys, effective prop design, effective misdirection ... if it happens good for you. If you'd like to do magic for people you'd be well served to look for robust/practical/time tested methods and focus on presentation and production design.
Mundus vult decipi -per Caleb Carr's story Killing Time

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Q. Kumber
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Re: 'Our Magic': Normal Art & High Art

Postby Q. Kumber » September 23rd, 2015, 8:24 am

Generally speaking, any magicians I have come across who class themselves as artists, do not fit into my category of artist, and those I do consider as artists, all call themselves students of magic.

My advice is to concentrate on being the best performer you can be. After the first 1,000 hours you should start to get a "feel" for it.

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Tom Stone
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Re: 'Our Magic': Normal Art & High Art

Postby Tom Stone » September 23rd, 2015, 8:50 am

Mr Hurley wrote:Also, is it possible, as a beginner, to perform at a level of 'High Art'?

Yes, it is possible. These labels are not steps on a stairway, more like forks in the path. This is about one's approach to the work, and says nothing about the quality or worth of said work. It says nowhere that the labels have to be mutually exclusive either. In my own performances, I have mix of material that can be labeled with all three labels. I see no problem, within a show, to go from 'high' art to 'low' art to 'normal' art and so on.

If the labels are helpful, then great. But if the labels are a hinder and a worry, then toss them aside.

Just like Mark said, the concept of originality is overrated. Or rather, originality for the sake of being original is seldom worthwhile. If you rather aim to do something good, then originality will likely be an incidental sideeffect. I wasted several years when I was younger on trying to be original, even had the horrid "Trick Brain" as a bible, naive and gullible as I was. Since I gave that up, I've been more following Keith Johnstone's battle cry “Don't be original; be obvious.”

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Re: 'Our Magic': Normal Art & High Art

Postby performer » September 23rd, 2015, 10:44 am

Maurice Fogel was also very lukewarm about originality in his interview in the 13 Steps to Mentalism. And I have always considered him to be the greatest mentalist I ever knew. However, he did point out that you should be original in your PRESENTATION. I most certainly would go along with that. We are all unique individuals and you should assert that individuality when performing. That is where the path to originality should lie.

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Re: 'Our Magic': Normal Art & High Art

Postby MagicbyAlfred » September 23rd, 2015, 11:57 am

In my view, entertaining kids at a hospital is thee highest application of the art of magic!

My recommendation: Don't overthink magic. Have fun with it and bring that to the kids. I really don't think you can go wrong following the advice already given by ML (a/k/a Performer), JT, TS and QK. It is born of a wealth of experience.

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Re: 'Our Magic': Normal Art & High Art

Postby performer » September 23rd, 2015, 4:09 pm

I thought Alfred was going to disappear from the Genii Forum? I got the impression he was being scared off by something. Anyway, glad to see he is still here.

What he just said reminds me of something that the late Harry Stanley said to me once, "Why do you take magic so seriously? You really shouldn't you know" I protested this and said, "I have to take magic seriously. How can you be any good unless you take it seriously?" He responded, "Take what you do seriously. The tricks and the act you do. But don't take the rest of it seriously"

Maybe he was right. Alas I haven't taken his advice.

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ToryKa
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Re: 'Our Magic': Normal Art & High Art

Postby ToryKa » September 24th, 2015, 4:29 am

MagicbyAlfred wrote:In my view, entertaining kids at a hospital is thee highest application of the art of magic!

My recommendation: Don't overthink magic. Have fun with it and bring that to the kids. I really don't think you can go wrong following the advice already given by ML (a/k/a Performer), JT, TS and QK. It is born of a wealth of experience.


I am a part of amateur puppet theatre and recently we’ve decided to include magic shows into our performances. Kinds are so happy and amazed! This is an incredible feeling to watch their rapturous faces, especially when this is a residential facility!
By the way such a combination of magic and puppet shows and occurred to be quite successful idea 
Even custom writing is about magic!

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Mr Hurley
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Re: 'Our Magic': Normal Art & High Art

Postby Mr Hurley » September 27th, 2015, 12:00 pm

Thank you, everyone, for the responses!

The way the book was recommended across several forums; it was a 'mandatory read'.

I felt that, 'if all magicians worth their salt operate on levels of art, then I better start thinking and looking at what I do as well! I don't want to waste my time!'

I can rest easier and not beat myself up over it.

I will need to re-read the whole thing over again so I'm much less panicky when I read it, but I'll read some other books and previously acquired PDFs first, just to take a breather from it.

Thanks again!

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Re: 'Our Magic': Normal Art & High Art

Postby Oscar Dale » August 18th, 2016, 8:51 am

Glad that you`ve find what you wanted, me too, i`m wanted to know something new about Maurice Fogel, and i`ve got what i want. Thanks to all of us, guys)))
Worked at UKTopWriters

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Re: 'Our Magic': Normal Art & High Art

Postby performer » August 18th, 2016, 10:04 am

There is an entire book written about Maurice Fogel but perhaps you know about it already. And in the Thirteen Steps to Mentalism there is a great interview with him. He gives great advice on getting volunteers on stage particularly if you need quite a few of them and there is a reluctance to come forward. I use his advice in my hypnosis show to this day.

He was an incredible mentalist and most importantly showman. It is a pity that the video footage of him is so limited.

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Q. Kumber
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Re: 'Our Magic': Normal Art & High Art

Postby Q. Kumber » August 18th, 2016, 10:25 am

The Fogel book should have been a lot better.

I'v learnt more about Fogel from people who knew and worked with him than from the book. These are people who were alive and well when the book was being written and all living in the UK.

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Re: 'Our Magic': Normal Art & High Art

Postby performer » August 18th, 2016, 11:19 am

I knew him personally. Not well but I knew him. He was always very nice to me. He seemed to like my card tricks for some reason, particularly the card tricks I did on stage.

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Re: 'Our Magic': Normal Art & High Art

Postby marselmarsel » July 5th, 2017, 8:55 pm

fogel film is in any place the film?

Jack Shalom
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Re: 'Our Magic': Normal Art & High Art

Postby Jack Shalom » July 5th, 2017, 9:20 pm



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