Originally posted by Rafael Benatar:
That's an interesting issue, Bill, and one I have strong feelings about. To begin with, you should be able to tell if the titles are meant for magicians. An obvious case is "Pinkie Does It" from Royal Road, where the title gives the method away.
As opposed to classical music, where you say, for example, "Brandenburg Concerto number 6 by Bach", the title used, or the lack thereof, can make a difference on the way people perceive magic. If we do use a title for laymen, we should consider relating it to our own presentation of the trick rather than to its technical premise. Out of This World, for example, could be called, as far as the audience is concerned, "Intuition", "Color Sensitive", "Mental Control" and many other things. I'd only use a title, perhaps, it if there is a printed program (you can always thank Paul Curry in the credits). But to verbally say "this trick is called so-and-so" will, more often than not, get you out of character (see Nelms). Even if you are playing yourself it will get you out of the character of yourself as a magician and portray the image of somebody who does tricks, rather than of somebody who does magic.
Having said that, I think most of the time, especially in informal shows or relaxed performances, it is convenient not to use titles and present the magic as spontaneous. After all, that's what magic is about. For me, the purest kind of magic is about doing something because you want to and need to (as David Stone brilliantly explains and demonstrates in his lecture), after having carefully structured the tricks to create those needs.
If you do a strait jacket escape and mention, as many people do, that Houdini used to perform that feat, you are planting the thought in the spectators' minds that the jacket was made for someone to escape from it. I think you're better off saying a policeman gave it to you, for example.
The point is that the audience doesn't need to be aware, or we don't always need them to make them aware, of the fact that tricks exist as pieces one can learn. Even calling them tricks affects their impression (i.e. "so that's a trick one can learn"). I prefer the image of "performing magic" or, better still, simply "doing magic".
Excellent points, Maestro Benatar.
Because Bill was responding, in part, to my post, perhaps I should expand on my take on the title issue, for clarity's sake.
I rarely use titles in my own performances, but I try to keep the effects something that can be summed up in a simple phrase. By doing so, this helps cement the particular performance piece into the memories of the audience and makes it easier to tell their friends about what happened during my show.
So, the card to forehead (which I do with a line that puts the "sting" onto me, not on the volunteer - an important point, IMHO), one cup trick, coins through table, unlinking rubberbands, the key that rolls over on its own, card from pocket, the coin purse and bills trick, all tend to stick in the minds of the people who see them better, simply because they are easier to explain.
I agree that the printed program should have your own titles for the tricks, with thanks to the creator(s) included, as this makes the routines look more like real performance pieces, like musical pieces on a concert program. It also lets the magicians in the audience have a clue as to what's going on and that you DO care about the originator(s) of the work you will be doing. An excellent idea, IMHO.
And to call them "tricks" - aargh! That word is as bad as "patter!"
Just some thoughts before my first cup of tea this morning.
Lee Darrow, C.Ht. http://www.leedarrow.com