Using others effects...verbatim

Discuss your favorite close-up tricks and methods.

Postby Guest » 01/25/03 10:00 PM

Please don't destroy me for asking this question. It is asked with absolute sincerity. I am intersted in the thoughts of those with far more experience and insight than myself into this question. The thought was raised in reading another thread.

Is it bad form to perform another magician's signature effect (published) for fun (not for money)? Say, as an example SAM THE BELLHOP or IT CAN'T BE DONE ANY SLOWER, not presented as an original creation, but introducing it as the creation of another, and portraying yourselfas the performer of the effect, in much the same way as is done with music.

It isn't obvious to me that the answer is "yes." I remember Lavand saying in "magic from the soul" that he dreams of one day meeting someone who does 3 breadcrumbs better than he does. I also feel like performing the work of another well is honoring that person and his effort. while there is something to be said for "varying" or "making your own" I imagine it is quite painful to see one's creation be butchered by a worse presentation or inferior technique...still I don't think that having one's hard work die out would be too much fun either. I think seeing one's published material performed beautifully would bring much happiness to the creator.

what do all of you think?

edit...for those who don't read replies...

perhaps my question is ambiguous as to what "verbatim" means. so let me define it as using the same techniques and script
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/25/03 10:29 PM

Originally posted by D. Simon:
..Is it bad form to perform another magician's signature effect...introducing it as the creation of another, and portraying yourself as the performer of the effect, in much the same way as is done with music..
Two parts to your question which when linked pretty much frame any acceptable answers.

First, to use the music analog, you presume the existance of an equivalent of ASCAP to collect fees for performances of works. Do we want this in magic?

Second and more personal answer...
You want to relegate yourself to being like a cover band? Sad. Mr. Copyist you are then.

Perhaps it makes sense to consider this an issue similar to an impressionist. What is different here is that the people you are doing impressions of are NOT PUBLIC FIGURES. They are magicians whose works are known almost only to other magicians. Unless you are going to do Houdinii, Doug Henning, David Copperfield, David Blaine, Mark Wilson stuff. That might be a good question though.

Let's say you were to do a 'historical rendition' of Dai Vernon, or John Ramsay. Gosh that material is tough to really do well, and much more difficult to make it work for you as it did for them. They had such particular personae. As an impressionist working for magicians you might get a good reveiw. For a lay audience this would be very strange. If the magic convention crowd is your target, this may work and to ME it seems moral and ethical.

Now let's go to the lay audience and focus on an impressionist doing Michale Webber, David Roth and Darwin Ortiz material. Hey, if you are going to pick material go for the best. To my way of thinking, their material works for them. They can and do perform it. I sense no need for you to impersonate them.

This has been a circular path around the issues of merit and value. Here we return to the question of performing rights and revenue. If you perform someone elses material as they do, you are diluting the value of their work. Should they be entitled to compensation?

There you go, and here we are. Are we ready for this? Anyone got a better idea?

Sincerely.
Jonathan Townsend
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Postby Guest » 01/25/03 10:45 PM

No. I don't want to relegate myself to the status of "cover band." I would like to be able to express my sincere admiration for another's work by occasionally performing it for people.

There is so much emphasis placed on creating magic. to use Burger's analogy, magic is like mansion filled with may rooms.

is there no room for those who want to be performers, rather than creators of magic? isn't magic like theater? just because in every performance of Othello the script, (and therefore plot, characters, etc.) are the same doesn't imply that the PERFORMANCES are the same.

there are plenty of things to vary in performance besides techniques and "presentations."

I am not going to argue for one side or another. To some extent I have stated my opinion and some of my reasons. My goal is to collect opinions on these issues not to debate them. Also, it would be nice if instead of bashing me, all of you would give me the benefit of the doubt and treat me with the same manner and attitude that you would want to be treated. We may not all have years of experience or be able to do 100 passes per minute, but our ideas are important to each of us and deserve respect.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/25/03 10:53 PM

Originally posted by D. Simon:
...is there no room for those who want to be performers, rather than creators of magic? isn't magic like theater? ...
D. I respect your direct question with a formal answer and also my personal answer. I also suggested a framework for looking at an issue this craft has walked around for centuries.

As to room in the performing arts for performers who present the works of others... Yes, D. They pay royalties to the authors and their estates. In music the organization hadling this is ASCAP.

And again I thank you for so honestly addressing this issue.
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Postby Guest » 01/25/03 11:06 PM

To my knowledge fees are only owed if the performance is paid. I explicitly said that it was for fun with no payment involved. the girl who plays beatles covers in my dorm room every night owes nothing to Michael Jackson. Similarly when i rap Jay-Z or eminem in the shower every morning, I don't have to rush out to cut them a check.

your "formal" answer is not what i am asking about. To some extent your personal one is. I thank you and encourage others to submit their views.

perhaps my question is ambiguous as to what "verbatim" means. so let me define it as using the same techniques and script.
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Postby Bill Duncan » 01/25/03 11:52 PM

Gentlemen,
Perhaps a better frame of reference would be that of the stand-up comic than of the musician? I think the analogy is more apt.

Most standups create their own unique material, or pay someone to write specifically for them, whereas many bands perform other peoples material (which is why ASCAP exists) as a matter of course.

If this meets with your approval consider how you'd feel if you went to a comedy club and saw someone doing Bill Cosby's "Noah, it's the Lord" routine versus how you'd feel if you saw someone doing it at a party.

Does that help to shape the discussion?
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Postby Guest » 01/26/03 12:00 AM

I take your point and concede that what you propose would be ethical (you stated that the material has been published.) My real feeling is that what you are proposing is an impossibility. You can duplicate the mechanics and techniques. You can use the same patter. You cannot, short of being a clone, duplicate the presentation.

Performer X lists his eyebrow in a certain way, has an idiosyncratic way of holding his arm with the elbow pointed out a bit, shifts his weight from one foot to the other in a way which is perfectly natural for him. Those purely personal parts of his presentation are as much a part of what made him successful as are the intricacies of the tricks.

Anyone who has ever heard, "Georgia, Russia, you peasants." Will know that only that one peformer could get anything with that line. May he rest in peace. You and I could say the line over and over and it is worthless.
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Postby Guest » 01/26/03 12:14 AM

D. Simon,

I was a part of the thread which (I suspect) started this one. It grew so long and off-point this is probably a much better place to discuss this important issue. Before we dive-in, let's set some ground rules:

We will discuss hypothetical situations so no-one mistakes any comment as being a personal attack,

What we will offer is either known fact or personal opinion,

And the big answer we all end-up agreeing upon is still just our opinion.

You asked " Is it bad form to perform another magician's signature effect (published) for fun (not for money)? Say, as an example SAM THE BELLHOP or IT CAN'T BE DONE ANY SLOWER, not presented as an original creation, but introducing it as the creation of another, and portraying yourself as the performer of the effect, in much the same way as is done with music."

My opinion is a qualified "No, there is nothing wrong with the scenario you describe."

I believe the factors that matter are:

1) It was published or sold by the originator you are impersonating,

2) You are the legal owner of the source material in #1.

3) It also helps if your presentation clearly states that this is an "impression" of or "homage" to the creator, but this is not vital.

So folks don't get confused, some examples

- If I buy the latest Lavand DVD, I learn the bread crumbs and then go out and perform it word-for-word, move for move (in English, Spanish or Pig Latin) - this is OK.

It isn't the best of all worlds, because we have a Rene. How much better and richer an Art this would be if I could find a poem that inspired me as much as the Li Po poem inspired Rene. And how glorious if I could weave the presentation of the poem to a simple but devastating effect, as Rene has.

But Rene chose to sell his creation and offered his actual presentation.

In fact, Eric De Camps does an "Homage to Rene" presentation of this effect. While Eric is a talented fellow, I think he would be the first to agree that there is no comparison.

Eric performs it well, Rene is it, body and soul.

-Now suppose I go to Rene's show and see him do a little something extra with the bread crumbs that makes me say "Wow!" But it is not on the DVD or in his books. My opinion is that I must stay-away. I can go home and play with the idea, try to figure it out, wonder why I didn't think of it myself, but the stuff from the show that isn't on the DVD stays out of my act (including those free shows for the cute girls at the dorm.)

Here is a great way you can be yourself while being another performer:

Do what Johnny Thompson did.

John Thompson does a few "impression" routines that are classics. I have seen him do the cups and balls, taking on the voice and mannerisms of Vernon, and "Pop" Krieger.

He also has a "forgetful Vernon" routine that I won't describe any further in case you are fortunate enough to see him yourself. These are effects like or of the personalites he imitates, but they are original compositions done in the styles of the Masters.

Mr. Thompson's impressions, technique and routines set an awfully high standard, but what a great standard for us to use as the goal. He elevates the Art.
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Postby Terry » 01/26/03 06:58 AM

New Guy,

You make some very interesting points. I would have to agree that if an individual puts routines to paper, they expect people to use them. Otherwise, why would I waste my money to just learn how something is done?

D. Simon,

Taking someones routine and copying them exactly, is not a compliment. The gentlemen you mention, who do an impression of Lavand and Vernon, knew or knows these gentlemen personally. It might be considered a student paying homage to a teacher thing.

I think everyone in magic begins by copying someone or another. This happens, hopefully, until they find out who they are and how/if the magic fits them. Then they take tricks and nurture them into personal pieces much like their own children.

My .02
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Postby Brian Marks » 01/26/03 09:55 AM

If you want to do a published signature trick, I suggesst tinkering with until you personilize the effect and write an original presentation for it.

One effect I often do is Simon Lovell's fingered three, he published his routine with his exact patter included. I have see him do it a dozen or so times. Its his opening effect. My presenation bares little resemblence to his. I dont even use the same premise anymore.
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Postby Guest » 01/26/03 01:30 PM

Thank you all for your opinions.

I do try to make effects my own, substituting moves for others and tailoring the presentation to my personality as much as I can.

On occasion, I find that my "personalization" makes the effect inferior. Personally I think "no slower" is a perfect piece of magic. I also think breadcrumbs is, but as was pointed out, there is a lot of room in crumbs to vary the presentation, substituting poems as someone suggested or pursuing another avenue with the presentation altogether.

I think there are some more complicated questions underpinning this discussion. one of which is this.

What are the elements of "performance" (or style) in close up magic? Consider two performers performing the same effect using the same techniques and the same script. What are the ways in which their performances will differ?
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Postby Guest » 01/26/03 02:10 PM

At one time I used to introduce the acts for close up performances at a magic venue. Part of the task was selecting the spectators who would sit on the right and left of the performer. By no means would I choose the same type of spectator for all performers. For one the choice was middle aged ladies, preferably from Brooklyn, who were enjoying a night out with their husbands. For another performer I would select older ladies, preferably with a bit of polish and sophistication.

There are no doubt some magicians who do not realize that in close up magic the spectators play a part in the presentation. Take the word of an old codger that they do indeed.

You need to decide which kind of audience best enhances your performance.
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Postby Dave Egleston » 01/26/03 02:25 PM

The problem with the question you asked is, the two effects you've cited - SAM THE BELLHOP and I CAN'T DO IT ANY SLOWER.
These effects are very specific in their presentation and wouldn't really work with another story line.
The problem I have is the Roth, Ammar,Daryl and Ortiz clones - who copy every little mannerism including the nervous giggles and stutters and in some cases even the inappropriate pauses.
So the most ambiguous answer so far is: Sometimes it is OK sometimes it isn't.
When you purchase a "story" trick - You puchase the story line.

Maybe yet another case for books over videos

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Postby Brian Marks » 01/26/03 03:22 PM

Sam The Bellhop is a story trick. The story is the presentation, the trick happens to be the false shuffles. This trick is okay to do as is as long as you dont do a Bill Malone impression. You dont need to add his jokes, go at his pace etc, etc.

If you are doing an oil and water routine. You can use the idea of being slow and fair and still not look anything like Rene Levand.

The point is you can do published material as long as you are not doing impressions of the original performer. It must be you performing the trick. None should mistake you for the originl performer.

A second point is find tricks that not everyone happens to be doing. Than don't perform it for other magicians. Everyone is doing three fly
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Postby Guest » 01/27/03 07:21 AM

Dave Egleston writes: "SAM THE BELLHOP and I CAN'T DO IT ANY SLOWER. . . are very specific in their presentation and wouldn't really work with another story line."

Not necessarily. Sam the Bellhop, in various forms (Joe the Bartender, etc.) has been around for more than 75 years.

At a convention that I was working in North Carolina a year or two ago, Rich Bloch did a version, using jumbo cards, about two brothers. Hilarious!

And in my Showtime column in the Linking Ring magazine of November of last year I offered a whole routine (deck story) involving a Shakespearean actor and Shakespeare's plays.

The trouble with Sam the Bellhop, etc., as it is usually done today is that it doesn't so much end as stop!

In other words, in most versions there is no logical ending, no final punch!

I believe I've solved that in the various versions I do, including the Shakespearean one mentioned above.

cheers,
Peter Marucci
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Postby Pete Biro » 01/27/03 10:52 AM

My problem with some of the tricks like Sam the Bellhop is that there is too much shuffling. The continued shuffling kills the routine. :mad:

I always wanted to work out a story/deck trick, where any shuffled deck, and you just make up the story as you go along... but never spent the time developing it. :eek:
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Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 01/27/03 11:03 AM

Originally posted by Pete Biro:
My problem with some of the tricks like Sam the Bellhop is that there is too much shuffling. The continued shuffling kills the routine. :mad:
Well, no one said you HAVE to shuffle. Just setup the deck and tell the story. Simon Lovell presents his "Who Killed Lily Longlegs?" in this manner -- a seemingly impromptu story told with a previously shuffled deck of cards.

-Jim
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Postby Steve Bryant » 01/27/03 11:07 AM

There is no shuffling in the original (Frank Everhart version) of Sam the Bellhop, just some cutting that ties in with the story. Frank Jr. still performs this nightly the way his dad did it (does it, that is) at his venue in Key West. Virtually every other magician in Key West also does it and does it that way (rather than Bill Malone's way) because they are heavily influenced by Frank. I had never seen Sam the Bellhop that much in my life as I had on that trip to the Keys.
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Postby Joe M. Turner » 01/27/03 01:29 PM

Just to clarify something I saw earlier in the thread... and didn't see addressed.

> To my knowledge fees are only owed if the performance is paid.

This is incorrect, at least as a blanket statement. There are plenty of theatrical and musical works that you will have to pay to perform, whether you are being paid or not, and whether the audience is charged or not.

An all-volunteer cast and crew performing "South Pacific" and charging NOTHING for tickets is still going to owe royalties.

JMT
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Postby Guest » 01/27/03 11:45 PM

There is little point in comparing magic to music etc. because we simply DON'T pay the creator of the effect each time we perform it.

The general rule is, once you publish a routine and ask money for it, you lose your baby. You no longer have a say how your routine is performed and by who.

If you don't want your routines performed verbatim or performed in a way you don't intend, DON'T PUBLISH IT.

My personal method for dealing with originality vs. copying is to start with the original routine and, through rehearsal and performance change and adjust the routine to suit my own style.

If I find that I get a great response and the patter suits my style thenthe changes will be minor or non existant.
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Postby Pete Biro » 01/28/03 11:26 AM

Seabrooke method.

Example.

He got the sawing in half with the little stocks that go around the midsection and a small electric saw with the long thin blade.

He set it up in a room at his house and just left it there... seeing it every day, one day an idea hit...

"It looked like the table they use when they put the paste on wallpaper... so I put a roll of wallpaper on it and it kept rolling back up.

"So, have someone come up and LAY ON THE PAPER to keep it from unrolling."

Now, "I need to cut the paper, so out comes the saw, I saw thru the person, they are unharmed, they get up and the paper is now cut in two."

NOW THAT IS BRILLIANT THINKING, WOT??? :D :eek: :D :eek: :D
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/28/03 11:49 AM

Originally posted by Pete Biro:

He set it up in a room at his house and just left it there... seeing it every day, one day an idea hit...
What Commitment! He had the prop/mechanics and made it a part of his home while awaiting inspiration.

What a great way to make one's magic more personal. Thanks for sharing this Pete!
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Postby Guest » 01/28/03 03:16 PM

I agree with that method. I keep a number of coins on my desk all the time, both to practice and to get new ideas.
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Postby Frank Starsinic » 01/28/03 04:37 PM

I usually start with the effect as is and it evolves into my own as time goes on.

Often, I don't even notice that this has happened.
Sometimes when I go back and re-read the book, I fing that I've modified the effect without knowing it.

Sometimes this takes months or years, other times it just sort of happens one day.

I also wondered about this issue regarding John Carney's handling of Cylinder and Coins.

I emailed Mr. Carney and told him that I wanted to perform the routine and exactly as he did it and asked if there were any issues..

He replied (paraphrasing here)...

"It's been published. Go for it!"

I have not changed anything for his version to date but I assume that as time goes on, I will.

I let them evolve naturally.
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Postby Guest » 01/29/03 04:26 PM

I don't see what is wrong with cover bands. Most weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc. would be much less fun without them, and they are for the harried host the safest and most acceptable form of live music, as well as less expensive than the originals.

Certainly, being a good copy is not going to get you very far up the show-biz ladder, but many great musicians got their chops this way, and many less talented performers managed to get by and make a living in the profession that they loved.

For one, I would much prefer to watch a well-executed copy than a ill-thought out original magic routine. Many magicians who insist on being original, especially when they are new to the craft, are actually slowing down their learning and growth by attempting to do something they should not be expected to do at that point in their careers.

I especially feel that magic conventions and clubs do a disservice to young magicians who have not yet learned what a solidly worked out routine and presentation should feel like, by asking them to come up with something original and giving more points for originality than for solid craftsmanship. You don't hand a kid a guitar and ask him to make up his own chords.

Going back to D. Simon's original question, I don't think that there is anything at all wrong with presenting a published effect exactly as written and performed by the author.

In fact, I think it is often wrong to do anything else. There are many reasons for the choices made by the experienced in routining, patter, and methods that may not become clear until after one has performed the effect many, many times in front of numbers of people. To change anything before you have understood it, and have a good reason to change, is to fall into error.

Change for the sake of change is not the way to improvement. Studying and understanding the material, and then finding those things which bother you, or don't fit you, or that you believe can be strengthened--that is the way of true artistic progress.

I believe that Frank Starsinic has delineated a perfectly valid approach to learning a magic routine, with which most full-time pros would agree is the most likely way for most magicians to learn and grow with their magic.

Once a magician has mastered the art, the process of creation will change of itself because of his/her greater level of knowledge, experience, and skill.

BTW, my good friend Jim Cellini likes to tell the story of a magician coming up to him at one of his street performances and saying "Isn't that Dai Vernon's Cups and Balls you are doing?" Cellini said, "No, it's mine." The young magician looked at him skeptically and said, "Well, it sure looks a lot like Vernon." Jim said, "It was his. He created it. I paid fifteen bucks for it. It is mine, now."
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Postby Pete McCabe » 01/29/03 05:13 PM

Whit Haydn:

Thank you for saving me the trouble of saying exactly what you said.

While it is true that the height of magic is to come up with an entirely original presentation for an entirely original effect using an entirely original method, there are many magicians who are not that good at creating original effects, presentations, and/or methods.

For these magicians, taking established effects, methods, and/or presentations is almost certainly the best road to presenting the best possible effect for your audiences. If you can customize a presentation to fit your character that's great. But with the astonishing quantity of magic that can be purchased, you might well find something that fits you right out of the box.

Even copying a performer who you admire can be a useful step in your long-term development process. The process of imitating those who have gone before you is a well-established step on the road towards mastery in the arts.

You wouldn't want to stop there, I don't think; at least, I would not. But if that is where you are in your development, there is little to be gained by forcing yourself to advance to more difficult stages before you are ready.
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Postby Guest » 01/29/03 06:42 PM

Thanks, Pete. I agree. I would even go further. What is wrong with a good copy? I listen to singers live who are often just imitating the voice and phrasing of another. If their technique is good, and they are able to imbue their work with real feeling, it is still worth listening to, even if I know that it is just a copy of Billie Holiday or Frank Sinatra. In magic, live performers are remarkably rare. I am constantly amazed that so many people in my audiences have never seen a good magician (close-up or stage) live before.

There are many very creative and original magicians, and I mean that sincerely and in the best sense, who are absolutely boring and unwatchable in performance. I wish that they would steal a personality, or timing, or some snippet of performance art from someone. Anyone.

I would much rather see, or recommend to someone, a performer who was not necessarily that original, but who managed to convey the joy of magic to his audience.
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Postby Jeff Eline » 01/29/03 07:08 PM

My head is spinning. What to believe?? Have you guys read the thread "Cutting One Card Higher." It's the exact opposite of what's being discussed here. I'm confused?!?
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Postby Bill Duncan » 01/29/03 09:17 PM

Originally posted by Whit Haydn:
I don't see what is wrong with cover bands. Most weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc. would be much less fun without them, and they are for the harried host the safest and most acceptable form of live music...
Whit,
I don't see anything wrong with listening to a cover band. I just wouldn't want to be in one for long...

That being said, I don't really see anything wrong with using material that has been packaged for sale just as it was packaged. I do think it's sad that for some folks it never gets beyond that.

For one, I would much prefer to watch a well-executed copy than a ill-thought out original magic routine.
That surprises me. I can't begin to imagine why anyone would feel that way.

Many magicians who insist on being original, especially when they are new to the craft, are actually slowing down their learning and growth by attempting to do something they should not be expected to do at that point in their careers.
Wow, well put. That may the be the key observation of the thread.

In my mind it raises the question of how one is to know when they are ready? Are you suggesting that trying to find a new way to present Zombie prevents the student from mastering the actual manipulation or does it go deeper that that?

-Robert Browning
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Postby Guest » 01/30/03 12:21 AM

Jeff E.

Yes, you are a little confused. There is a big difference between cutting one higher and the ideas discussed here.

Take a careful look at this Annemann quote which member #561 posted in "Cutting" :

"The question in my mind that has yet to be answered is, Why do magicians wait until someone else does it, before taking it up themselves? There are hundreds of catalogued tricks and published effects not being used by anyone. Yet the moment someone with imagination and vision takes an effect from these available to all sources, everybody jumps up and says, Its great I can use that. And what can be done about it? Nothing much. My answer is, Develop a little pride along with your magical ability. Whats yours?

-Theo Annemann, The Jinx #12, September 1935.
"

So here is the difference - all the "copying" and learning being discussed here is based upon material that is published by a specific author.

The examples of Lavand or Sam the Bellhop are effects, presentaions and methods put in print by the people who are being imitated. This is fine.

The ultimate example may be Tony Slydini. He was a great magician, and a fantastic teacher, but he demanded that his students learn his effects "EXACTLY" as he performed them. How funny to see 16 year olds talking like an old Italian man. Some of Slydini's most famous students had a hard time breaking out of the mold of their teacher, to find themselves, but they did. I know a handfull of Tony's students, and they can all sit down and go right into one of Slydini's routines, and every line, move, pause and nuance is 100% Slydini, to this day.

If RJ had published his work on cutting, it would be fair game to put on your striped suit, glue on your fake beard and go to town in your best Ricky imitation.
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Postby Jeff Eline » 01/30/03 08:23 AM

New Guy,
It must be refreshing to have such clear grasp on whats right and whats wrong. How anyone could say there a big difference between this discussion and the Cutting One Higher is beyond me.

And since Pete and Whit are using their real names, I must give their comments more weight. Here are some quotes:

Whit Haydn: There are many very creative and original magicians, and I mean that sincerely and in the best sense, who are absolutely boring and unwatchable in performance. I wish that they would steal a personality, or timing, or some snippet of performance art from someone. Anyone.

Pete McCabe: For these magicians, taking established effects, methods, and/or presentations is almost certainly the best road to presenting the best possible effect for your audiences. If you can customize a presentation to fit your character that's great.

Whit Haydn: I would much rather see, or recommend to someone, a performer who was not necessarily that original, but who managed to convey the joy of magic to his audience.

Pete McCabe: Even copying a performer who you admire can be a useful step in your long-term development process. The process of imitating those who have gone before you is a well-established step on the road towards mastery in the arts.

You wouldn't want to stop there, I don't think; at least, I would not. But if that is where you are in your development, there is little to be gained by forcing yourself to advance to more difficult stages before you are ready.

Ill even use your own words:

New Guy: Most magicians see something they like and go home and "tinker" with it, try to solve and understand the "how" of the method, to grow from playing with the material they see from other performers. Everyone does this, this is good.

And now juxtapose that with an innocent enough question originally posed by
Henry Baskerville: Speaking of effects Ricky Jay did in his show, there was one where he would repeatedly cut one card higher than the card to which the spectator cut. I have been able to achieve this effect using a "Devil's Deck" that has markings along one side, which I keep facing away from the spectator. But perhaps there is a better way, whether used in Ricky's show or not. Any thoughts?

So, no, I dont see much difference and I dont see where it required such a harsh lecture on New Guys part, whoever he is.
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Postby Randy DiMarco » 01/30/03 09:49 AM

Jeff
The difference is that in this thread people are discussing using published presentations. In the One Card Higher thread New Guy is talking about people using unpublished presentations. I see a huge difference and I agree with New Guy. As far as I know the One Card Higher presentation has not been published before. If it has, the presentation is fair game but I still agree with the general view expressed by New Guy.
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Postby Pete Biro » 01/30/03 10:08 AM

Reminds me of a story... Talking, years ago, with Betty Davenport, in her London shop... she said when she was a child and her father was on the road performing, she always knew where he was because orders for the tricks in his show would come in from various parts of England... along his route! :eek:
Stay tooned.
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Postby Pete McCabe » 01/30/03 01:13 PM

Randy DiMarco (et al):

I don't have it at work with me, but in Jamy Ian Swiss's "Theatrics" manuscript he provides a presentation based on a game in which the only way the magician can win is to cut exactly one card higher than the spectator. So if the spectator cuts the 5 of spades, the magician can only win by cutting the 6 of spades.

I can double check but I believe this is at least a decade old and may well have been used by Jamy even longer than that.
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Postby Jeff Eline » 01/30/03 01:44 PM

Originally posted by Randy DiMarco:
Jeff
The difference is that in this thread people are discussing using published presentations. In the One Card Higher thread New Guy is talking about people using unpublished presentations. I see a huge difference and I agree with New Guy. As far as I know the One Card Higher presentation has not been published before. If it has, the presentation is fair game but I still agree with the general view expressed by New Guy.
Randy,

Peter Duffie said that this effect was published by Tom Sellers (1933). And now Pete thinks it might have been published by Jamy Ian Swiss. However, I know this doesn't matter to New Guy because he's noted that this effect isn't 'general'.

Who knows what Mr. Baskerville was going to do with the effect. Maybe he's going to copy it exactly as is and start touring. I would have a problem with that because I agree you shouldn't steal other's hard work.

However, there's nothing in his question to suggest that and I believe that we need to give him the benefit of the doubt. But let's play the 'if' game a bit further.

What if he is inspired by Ricky Jay's performance and goes home and works on a similar presentation. He works out his own method and after months or maybe even years of tinkering, he developes a totally new presentation, an effect where any card can be called and he can cut to it without any hesitation.

This is how our art is poked and proded in new directions, sprouting new branches of the tree. I just don't think we should be chastise people for being inspired.

If he's just going to copy the effect, put no effort into, sell it, add nothing to it, then yes I have a problem with that.

Pete McCabe said it best: "The process of imitating those who have gone before you is a well-established step on the road towards mastery in the arts."
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Postby Guest » 01/30/03 06:32 PM

There is a big difference between using material that is published and copying material that is not. I wrote an article for the Blackstone Ring newsletter called "Against Originality in Magic," since republished in my notes "Chicago Surprise" that discussed this very point. Obviously, I am not against originality, and I don't believe anyone can advance very far in this business and still keep the respect of his peers unless he has original material and has added to the growth of magic.

I was trying to point out that the best road to understanding and growth for the beginner in magic is to take what is published and learn it thoroughly, even by copying the originator's presentation and timing. The more different sources we copy, the wider range we will have for our own personality and ideas to eventually shine through. If we copy only one performer, it is sometimes difficult to escape from the shadow.

Zen masters of brush painting used to make their students watch as they painted a handful of paintings each morning. All day the students tried to replicate the master's paintings as perfectly and quickly as possible. They would start over the next day.

This went on for eight years. The students were never allowed to do any original work. At the end of the eight years they were let out to make their way in the world. Those who had original thoughts were able to capture on paper any idea in their heads without a thought, effortlessly. Those who had no original thoughts were able to make a living painting fine replicas of the master's work.

Those who studied under Slydini were burdened often by his requirements to copy him exactly. Those who had nothing much to add, remained rote copies of him. Those with something new in their heads were able to take what they learned and transform it into something great. Jim Celini is an example.

As a young magician, I studied the linking rings by learning the Symphony of the Rings by Vernon, the Jack Miller Routine, and several others. I learned those until I understood them and could entertain with them. In the process, I began to notice little things in each routine that bothered me, and I found that my performing conditions demanded different things from the rings than these older routines could offer.

Eventually, I pieced them together into a routine that solved the problems I had with those other routines and brought out my vision better. But I could not have done this without having first learned the secrets of the rings. These secrets have nothing to do with the methods.

There is a wealth of published material out there that has been honed by a thousand performances by the creators. If you want a Royal Road to magic, learn what they have to teach you by respecting the material and first performing it the way it was written. After the material has been mastered and understood, then look for ways to make it better.

It is possible to learn magic on your own, without teachers and guidance, without copying, without resorting to the help of those who have gone before. But it is a long and slow road, and filled with traps and pitfalls. If the giants are standing there offering you their shoulders, don't be stupid.
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Postby Guest » 01/30/03 06:46 PM

Bill Duncan:

For one, I would much prefer to watch a well-executed copy than a ill-thought out original magic routine.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

That surprises me. I can't begin to imagine why anyone would feel that way.
I have seen many very clever and original attempts at magic that failed miserably for a simple lack of understanding of the basics of magic. No one is fooled. No one is entertained.

These are uncomfortable for me to watch, and I am even more interested in magic than the average spectator. For the average spectator, they are unitelligable and stupid, and they hurt the art. People should learn to entertain with magic first. They should develop their tastes and skills in magic first. Then be original.

Ever listened to someone make up his own songs on a guitar without being taught and without practice? People don't blame music for that because they have seen enough good musicians to know what is going on. But many people see an excreble magician live and think, "You know, magic just isn't that entertaining."

I have often called on possible client to hear, "You know we had a good magician last year, but he didn't go over well. I just don't think our people really like magic."

"Why do you think he was good?"

"Well he was a member of the Magic Castle..."
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Postby Guest » 01/30/03 06:58 PM

Bill Duncan:

Most standups create their own unique material, or pay someone to write specifically for them, whereas many bands perform other peoples material (which is why ASCAP exists) as a matter of course.

If this meets with your approval consider how you'd feel if you went to a comedy club and saw someone doing Bill Cosby's "Noah, it's the Lord" routine versus how you'd feel if you saw someone doing it at a party.

I think that music is a much better model. We are magic stylists, for the most part. The classic tricks, like the classic songs, are presented as well as we can. The bad copy without feeling. The good copy with real feeling. The great create new phrasing, arrangements and presentations. The few immortals sing beautifully what has never been heard before.

That is why some people can create brilliant tricks but not perhaps perform them. Others take the work others create and make it sing. The few immortals will make their own creations rise to great heights.

But first, they all must study the craft, learn their classics, understand what has gone on before.

A primitive painter doesn't have less talent than a trained artist, he simply doesn't have the knowledge of what has gone before, and so continually reinvents the wheel. He might be great, he might be original and powerful, but he will never be a master of his art.

By the way, the modern standup comedy performer is much different than the great joke tellers that preceded them. Because of Lenny Bruce, standup became a form that expected the performer to be original in his material, and to draw from his own life-experiences.

In the days of television, theft of material becomes more perilous, but it still happens. Comedians sometimes look down on magicians because to them, it seems as if all the magicians go to a magic shop and buy a set of rings, a rubber chicken, and some other stuff and then put on a show. This has some justification, especially with the number of bad comic magicians who have done just that. Comedians have a hard time understanding that the linking rings can be performed by many different performers in many different ways.

For the magician, it is often a matter of showing the crowd something they have seen before like the linking rings, but in a new way, and of course making them like it one more time.

I'm going to sing you that old favorite...
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/30/03 07:40 PM

Originally posted by D. Simon:
Is it bad form to perform another magician's signature effect (published) for fun (not for money)? Say, as an example SAM THE BELLHOP or IT CAN'T BE DONE ANY SLOWER, not presented as an original creation, but introducing it as the creation of another, and portraying yourselfas the performer of the effect, in much the same way as is done with music.
After reading the posts, I'm gonna have to change my opinion.

What you do for fun is your own private business. We are talking about published routines here.

For some reason the idea of karoke comes to mind. Not a great artistic accomplishment, though perhaps a good step towards becomming a better performer.

Public performances including bits done as a magical impressionist are really not a great threat to the art or the craft. Not bad form. Again, not great artistic breakthoughs for the craft or art, though perhaps a good stepping stone for the performer.

Dai Vernon is gone. Likewise Mort Saul, John Ramsay, Tommy Downs, Cardini and so many others. Is it really bad form for someone to bring back an echo of their performances?
Mundus vult decipi
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Postby Jeff Eline » 01/30/03 07:58 PM

Whit,

Very interesting. I liked the analogy of playing guitar and making up songs - well said.

I'm spending way too much time thinking about this, so one last question....

As a professional performer, how would you feel about someone watching one of your performances, and then going home and working on an effect of yours (not published) on their own - not to perform or sell or publish, just to learn and grow as a magician?
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