Emotional Magic

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Postby Dustin Stinett » 09/25/12 08:38 PM

Recently I replied to a post whichapparentlyeschewed the concept of emotional hooks for magic tricks; particularly card tricks.

I noted that a response from the audience that was described was in fact an emotional response and, though I didnt expand on the thought (I didnt feel it appropriate to the thread), by extension the performer in questionRichard Turnerhad hooked his audience through emotion.

Ive been giving this some thought, and I think Ive even talked about it here before, but its certainly worth reiterating.

I understand what the poster meant. He was talking about a contrived emotional hook: a warm & fuzzy aint that sweet; it makes me think about my youth and grandpa Fred kind of emotional hooks.

These certainly have their place in magic, and I believe only the very best showmen (and I mean that for both genders) can create these kinds of emotional hooks without them appearing contrived and schmaltzy.

But that notion also presumes that warm & fuzzies are the only kinds of emotions. That when we use the E Word that we are talking about love, hate, nostalgiathe obvious emotions.

But isnt amusementfor amusements sakean emotion? So are curiosity and awe. Simply being impressed by someones overt skill is an emotion. Envy, desire. Greed is a big one with which magicians who work with money and playing cards can cast as a hook, and it need not be contrived. A decent performer doesnt even have to work at it. Done correctly, its automatic.

Can you tell whats in here? I ask as I jingle a full coin purse (at the beginning of my Spellbound routine). If someone says coins, thats fine, but I know Ive really got them when they answer money (and thats the most common answerthank goodness). Right or wrong and no matter what people think of it, in our society money is an automatic emotional hook. Theres nothing schmaltzy or contrived about it.

With card tricksand most of the time I just do card tricksthe hook is simple curiosity. Hopefully I can move them past that and into the realm ofto borrow Paul Harriss well-worn phraseastonishment. But What can he do with those? is good enough for me when Im standing in the middle of a room at a social function or during a break at a business meeting.

This subject always makes me think back to my friend Martin A. Nash. When he walked into the room, he owned it. He was handsome, dressed to the nines, and wore a tasteful display of diamonds and gold. There isnt a real advantage player in the world who looks like that, but Martin knew that the vast majority of the audience didnt know that and this fact was his advantage play. His character was his emotional hook and he had them the second he appeared. Men wanted to be like him (envy) and women wanted to be with himor someone like him (lust). Curiosity would kick in when the cards came out and then awe often led to a standing ovation.

Not bad for a bunch of card tricks.

Dustin
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/25/12 08:59 PM

Rene Lavand is the master of creating emotion during a card routine.
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Postby Larry Horowitz » 09/30/12 12:24 PM

Emotion creates magic. Without its just a trick.
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Postby Brad Henderson » 09/30/12 06:29 PM

I hate you

TA daaa!

But seriously - before their can be magic, before their can be emotion - there must be engagement.

Many/most magicians fail to actually/actively engage their audiences. They talk to rather than with. They patter rather than speak. . And they often rely so heavily on trite and superficial 'hooks' that the forget to make eye contact, take a breath, and actually SEE the people in front of them They might as well be the animatronics at the country bear jamboree show.

Presence is a powerful engager - actually being in the moment with your audience in THIS space at THIS time making THESE things happen. Then, it is my experience, that eliciting and conveying emotion becomes far more
manageable.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 09/30/12 06:43 PM

How's this for a plan: Rapport, engagement, elicitation, acknowledgement. ?
For the latter - read applause as feedback :)
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Postby Edward Pungot » 09/30/12 08:46 PM

Magic is strong enough on it's own. Strong enough to even carry a weak performer as someone whom I highly respect once told me.
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Postby El Harvey Oswald » 10/01/12 08:35 AM

Well said. The narratives accompanying performances often appear to be premised on the narrow understanding of "emotion" that you describe. Yet as you note, curiosity (perhaps with envy or admiration underlying it) has at least as potent an emotional content as the emotions performers attempt to elicit with schmaltz and simplistic parables.
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Postby erdnasephile » 10/01/12 01:14 PM

IMHO, schmaltz is even worse than an "adventures of the props in the magicians hands"-type presentation because audiences generally resent manipulative attempts to make them "feel"--it just rings false. (Even a master like Spielberg makes this error in some of his movies, much less the average Joe Magic).
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/01/12 02:04 PM

I prefer attempts at "schmaltz" to attempts to "teach history".
What makes the history of tricks resonant for us is the evolution of the methods - what makes them work (re Method). From the other side of the footlights - most folks in the audience don't know why the Pops Krieger cups routine is any different than what goes way back before Ponsin's book or (from their perspective) what's on the Egyptian wall painting.
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Postby Brad Henderson » 10/01/12 02:07 PM

teaching history can resonate with audiences when it reveals the performer's relationship and feelings about that history or the persons involved in the making thereof.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/01/12 06:13 PM

IMHO historical resonance felt in shows where the performer plays the part of Mark Twain or Ben Franklin - a character familiar to audiences - is about the relationship between the character and the audience rather than the performer. Affirmations of popular (mis)conceptions as regards the past are just that and not so much about the performer's feelings as the audiences sense of affirmation and a safe/false sense of intimacy with the topic presented.

On the side of fiction, as if it were truly distinct from history, we have plays where the human drama may move the audience. Nobody is supposed to think the actors are all dead at the end of Hamlet. There again it's the drama and not the performer or anything an actor himself feels but more what his character conveys.

I'd like to believe otherwise but for now I'm staying with the position that when doing the cups and balls trick a fiction serves us more often than a discussion of how the modern closeup magician found a way to work without a servante or a gibeciere and yet get four final loads under the cups. We may have to agree to disagree on this one. Something about telling a story about a carpenter who dreamed of finding a tree and the edge of a forest one dark story night whose wood was solid compared to ordinary wood but whose branches passed through each other. How he sawed off a bough and made a plank and a beam... instead of talking about Karl Germain and his performances over a century ago just seems more interesting.
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Postby Brad Henderson » 10/01/12 06:27 PM

I suppose all those people who attended 52 assistants and on the stem were all magicians then.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/01/12 06:57 PM

Brad Henderson wrote:I suppose all those people who attended 52 assistants and on the stem were all magicians then.


That's called a special pleading.

A more valid question would be to ask if folks who made that history like Billy Robinson, Marvyn Roy, Fred Kaps, Bautier deKolta, Karl Germain Robert-Houdin or Robert Harbin performed on stage telling his life story to just did their tricks.
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Postby Brad Henderson » 10/01/12 07:22 PM

Do you not think robert houdin's pseudo scientific presentations ala the use of ether resonated with his audience - and that resonance stemmed in part from his relationship to scientific inquiry?

Tamariz spoke about true magic mysteries and how the audience can sense your relationship to the piece and the history thereof. When people reveal their passions - be it science, history, or even method - that passion can engage.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/01/12 07:26 PM

:) You've shifted from history as accurate representation of the past to Robert-Houdin's fictions and compelling subjective experience.

Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes, and forgot.
Dream, in Sandman #19: "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
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Postby Edward Pungot » 10/01/12 07:45 PM

The Junior Sponsors at the Magic Castle told us (during the introductory meeting following being accepted into the program), that they could tell the moment you walked on stage or appeared behind that glowing red curtain in the parlor whether or not you were in.
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Postby mrgoat » 10/01/12 07:48 PM

Apropos of emotion, I recall doing a simple two number prediction on an elderly man once.

I'm sure this isn't my idea, as I have so few, and they tend to be bad, but...I got him to remember the house number of the first place he had owned. To recall the colour, the letter box, how heavy it was, the noise it made when opened and closed etc.

I asked the number, revealed my prediction (Lincoln's best boon) and he cried

Lots

I gave gave him a hug

He was telling me it was the house he had with his wife, who had died about 8 years earlier and it suddenly brought back all these lovely memories and feelings for him

Sometimes, the power we can occassionally yield is beyond amazing
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Postby Brad Henderson » 10/01/12 07:52 PM

Does it matter if it is history or science or wonder? If the person has a strong relationship to it, that will resonate with the audience. We see that in Ricky jay's shows. We do not see it in people pretending to be Ricky jay doing shows. In the former, there is a real relationship to the subject - history - and the audience feels that. The reason most schmaltz doesn't work is because, not only is it usually 'false' (in tone and content), but it is often manipulatively used to force a reaction and the 'performer' spends his time manipulating instead of 'being'.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/01/12 08:43 PM

Edward Pungot wrote:The Junior Sponsors at the Magic Castle told us (during the introductory meeting following being accepted into the program), that they could tell the moment you walked on stage or appeared behind that glowing red curtain in the parlor whether or not you were in.


I believe in that kind of working performer sense about audiences and performers. It's been framed in terms of the audience as a animal and they know what to make of you in between five seconds and start responding to what they feel about you in less than a minute. And that response has nothing to do with the sleights you know, the gimmicks up your sleeve and how well your trick props operate. It's a primal response to you taking focus in the event and starting your process.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/02/12 09:32 AM

Getting back to Dustin's post-

Do you distinguish the emotional response elicited by the performer from the target response of the particular item they are performing? This seems to be more about the performer than about the tricks:
His character was his emotional hook and he had them the second he appeared. Men wanted to be like him (envy) and women wanted to be with himor someone like him (lust). Curiosity would kick in when the cards came out and then awe often led to a standing ovation.

Not bad for a bunch of card tricks.
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Postby Edward Pungot » 10/02/12 10:29 AM

Jon,
In my opinion, it is the job of the magician to make that indistinguishable for the audience, to make the two inseparable.

That's what distinguishes a master magician from the average. Most magicians, as Brad has pointed-out, are divorced from what they are doing. You don't get that watching a Master. In fact, you feel a part of it as well. One of the most engaging aspects of our art is this intimate and genuine relationship with the audience. This is good magic, when the whole thing doesn't feel like you're watching a cut and paste performance.
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