Roberto Giobbi’s Column “On Practicing Magic”

Discuss the views of your favorite Genii columnists.

Postby Dan Magyari » 12/29/10 03:40 PM

I love it! When I was in music school, Robert Schumanns Album for the Young was one of the books that we had to utilize as part of our early piano studies (if your instrument was not piano, you were required to study piano for two years), and I remember reading Schumanns text.

A couple of thoughts I had regarding Mr. Giobbis presenting us with Schumanns thoughts on practice:

These are part of a book of tunes Schumann wrote for young students to please his daughters (as listeners) and ultimately to be used as simple tunes to be studied in the process of developing as a musician.

In the development of a solid classical musician, these rules are presented to the student in concrete musical examples that are honed week after week in private instruction. The hours spent in the practice room each and every day honing the music and related drills assigned the previous week, only to be critiqued and tweaked and sent home to repeat the process ceaselessly.

I would relish a pedagogy in magic wherein student would meet with teacher each and every week, and, throughout many years, concepts similar to Schumanns that dealt more precisely with magic would be part of the natural development of a magician. I have yet to learn of a similar process in magic.

These are not all simple turns of phrase to be read and immediately digested. Some are quite obtuse and demand much of our time and thoughtful energy over many years to begin to understand how they come into playin music. If one does not comprehend them clearly in music, Im not sure how an analogy can be made to magic.

I applaud Mr. Giobbi in presenting Schumanns thoughts to us as a way to push our thinking in magic. But, in my mind, they are not as simple as they seem in reference to serious music, and thus not as easily analogous to magic as Mr. Giobbi leads us to believe.

Hopefully, Mr. Giobbi will continue to press us to address more than just the mundane in our pursuit of magic. I, for one, love it!
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Postby Joe Naud » 12/29/10 05:46 PM

Without a full understanding of the text referenced in the article I was able to think on some of these concepts, but I'm sure there is much more to get out of this as you have explained above. I almost wish that Giobbi could have taken this further as he mentioned in the article, but he decided not to. An annotation along with the text adapting these concepts to magic from a master would have been very beneficial in my humble opinion.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 12/29/10 06:00 PM

Giobbi has made comment on learning music? Thanks for the motivation to carefully read his article.

Trying very hard to to start without any prejudice on this one, as concerns about precision and intention are coming to me. Folks do know that composers write exactly what they want performed in their scores while in magic literature there is usually very much omitted, right? So the article may well make an interesting read tonight.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 12/30/10 12:35 AM

What a fun read. :) A fine article.

Any thoughts on equating what one hears when one plays a piece of music to what what sees and hears from the audience when one performs a routine in magic?
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Postby Dan Magyari » 12/30/10 01:44 PM

Jon, if I understand your question correctly, in my own experience the two do not equate.

Although as a performing musician (were talking classical performance) one utilizes energy from ones audience, you dont necessarily alter the notes on the page because someone coughs or sneezes (heckling, commenting or similar bursts of energy from classical audiences is frowned upon). Whereas, a magician will sometimes acknowledge comments or noises from their audience and alter or enhance their own performance as a result of that influence.

As to what one hears when one plays, thats a loaded question. It depends on many factors, including size of ensemble (solo, duo, trio.orchestra), level of musician, level of other musicians, expectations of what one expects to hear after many rehearsals and discussions, etc. If you were equating what one hears while performing music as it relates to ones audience, to a large degree one would try to block out those kinds of distractions and focus on the music at hand (much going on in complex music).

There is an expectation as a performing classical musician (one that performs works of Schumann, for example) that the audience has come to hear you play (be entertained by you) and not be an active participant in your performance. As we know from the many discussions on this and other magic discussion boards, magicians audiences often have a completely different agenda. Of course, as soon as assistance is requested on stage, the audience feels they have an active role in the magicians performance. The classical musician is just not requesting that kind of participation from the audience (generally speaking, of course).
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 12/31/10 01:10 AM

Dan, what I'm pondering is equating what we hear when we listen to music as analogous to what we see/hear happening in/with our audiences when we perform magic. It's their perceptions and sentiments we are playing as an instrument and so until we get that feedback we have not "played the piece" but only practiced or rehearsed it.
Mundus vult decipi
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Postby Bill Palmer » 01/01/11 01:59 AM

Jonathan -- The interpretation of the notes on the page is left up to the performer. There can be many different valid interpretations of the same piece. In fact, in many different types of music, the notes on the page are merely a framework in which the musician worked.

There is not enough room on this forum for me to go into detail about this, but if you would like to have a better understanding of the idea of flexibility in interpretation of notes, read C.P.E. Bach's The True Art of Keyboard Playing or Quantz's On Playing the Flute. They will give you a little peek underneath the edge of the tent, so to speak.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/01/11 02:11 AM

Thanks Bill, might make a good excuse to stop down to NYC and visit my father, who likely has that book on the shelf. I guess the Neil Diamond and The Monkeys versions of I'm a Believer are equally valid (orchestrated differently, I know)...

What I was getting at is a proposition that we don't get to "hear" what we do until we attend how it affect an audience.
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Postby Dan Magyari » 01/01/11 06:32 PM

Jon, if we continue with our example of classical music for a moment, our audience is expected to wait until the end of an entire composition before exhibiting their pleasure or displeasure with your performance. So, you can be performing continuously for 20 minutes or more (perhaps multiple movements), before you get an accurate read on did they appreciate your performance. The ears are the only necessary sense receptors in a classical music performance. In fact, both the musician and his audience could have their eyes shut (and often do) and still benefit 100% from a musical performance.

Whereas, magicians demand their audience use multiple senses (at least sight and sound) in order to be successfully entertained. If I as an audience member close my eyes for a magicians performance (if even for a short rest), I most likely will lose out on part of the effect the magician is trying to have on me. There are not the 20-minute waits for audience reaction either in magical performance.

And, Im not convinced that an audience is necessary in order for a performance to take place in music, or magic (unless audience participation is required). When we watch a movie, do we not react to it? There are many musical and magical performances I have seen on film that have moved me as an audience member (after the fact). Even before I became an audience member of that filmed music or magic, the fact that it was on tape constitutes a performance (to me). And, it could be quite a significant performance (caught on tape) whether you or I ever see it and comment on it.

I also believe that a knowledgeable performer will know whether his performance was successful or not (on film) before it is released to the public. The only ones who dont seem to know this are the ones posting to YouTube every day.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/01/11 08:36 PM

This might be the item on which we disagree: "And, Im not convinced that an audience is necessary in order for a performance to take place in music, or magic"

I hold that there is no magic without an audience. In some ways, when designing and rehearsing material, one might use an internal or imagined audience as a model. There may be significant differences between one's internal or imagined audience response and what one gets from real people with perceptions and reactions of their own.

Can't wait to see ad copy that reads "This will blow away your internal audience".
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Postby Bill Palmer » 01/02/11 03:05 AM

Jonathan Townsend wrote:Thanks Bill, might make a good excuse to stop down to NYC and visit my father, who likely has that book on the shelf. I guess the Neil Diamond and The Monkeys versions of I'm a Believer are equally valid (orchestrated differently, I know)...

What I was getting at is a proposition that we don't get to "hear" what we do until we attend how it affect an audience.



The C.P.E. Bach book is pretty much a standard work. BTW, the common English translation of the title contains an error due to a false cognate. My father always wanted me to retranslate the book, because there were other rather stodgy sections of it that apparently needed some work, but I told him that it really wasn't my cup of tea.

The thing about Baroque music, specifically near the end of the Baroque period, is that it had acquired a whole series of notational assumptions, i.e. things that simply were NOT notated any longer, because they were expected, such as the cadential trill, etc. Performers were also expected to embellish pieces as they saw fit, to a certain degree.

However, some artists carried this on into much more recent music. For example, Vladimir de Pachmann, who first recorded on the Welte reproducing piano and later made recordings on the gramophone, had a tendency for wild interpretation. According to his contemporaries, sometimes he would stop in the middle of a piece and simply perform variations on a phrase, until he was satisfied that he had gotten everything he could from it. Or he would turn to his audience and say, "Listen to how beautiful this is!" and repeat a small segment that had reall moved him. Obviously, this is an extreme example.

Recorded orchestrations of pop tunes are a much different "animal." For example, Neil Diamond would usually record a rather "vanilla" version of what he wanted to play and an arranger would come in and add to it. There was a lot done on the recording that was not put down on paper. And the Monkees were basically a recording studio construct as well.

I did quite a bit of studio work "back in the day," and I remember occasions where I wasn't even given a chord chart. I would come in and there would be a recording of some fellow beating a guitar, and I would have to work out whatever the producer wanted by a combination of ear, calculated guesses and, on occasion, rather concentrated counting.

However, this aside, the general rule for how close one would have to stick to the composer's exact notation depends on the size of the ensemble. A soloist can take plenty of liberty with a composition without hurting anything, so to speak. If you add two or three other musicians and they play together enough that they understand each other's way of interpreting things, and they rehearse quite a bit, there is still a lot of room for interpretation.

However, when you get into larger groups -- large bands, symphonic groups, etc. -- everyone has to play the material that is on the paper or chaos will ensue.

One of the specific areas in which the musician has a great deal of interpretive leeway is in an area that is addressed directly by the essay that Giobbi has presented, and that is in the area of "thoroughbass." This is an aspect of music that requires excellent technique, a good knowledge of theory and, admittedly, some experience. It is not in common use in today's music, although certain things we use in notation do hark back to it.

I would like to have seen some specific interpretation of exactly how to apply this to magic. There are certain things that appear in magic that do not appear in music and vice-versa. So an understanding of what Giobbi feels would be an appropriate magical equivalent of a knowledge of thoroughbass would be would interest me quite a bit.
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Postby Terrence » 01/19/11 01:47 PM

One of the best articles I've read in Genii. Hats off to Roberto and Richard.

Having studied classical piano for a long time, I think that this is a very useful analogy on the practice of Magic.

I never thought that de Pachman would ever be mentioned on the Genii forum -- I'm pleasingly impressed!
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