The Resonance Effect

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Tom Stone
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The Resonance Effect

Postby Tom Stone » June 4th, 2002, 8:20 am

I have some thoughts about group dynamics in relation to the reactions in a magic performance. Hopefully, someone will find it interesting.

A while ago, a friend of mine, a magician, attended a performance of mine at a private party. Afterwards, he commented that I seemed to get a stronger reaction from some of the effects than what he thought possible with those effects. Since the effects in question are similar to things he perform himself, I got a bit curious. Perhaps I did something special in those effects, something that could be isolated and applied to other effects?

Several years ago, I had a problem that happened frequently. To get a dramatic climax to an effect where a selected card is located, it is good if the spectator names his card before the face of the found card is revealed. The problem was that the spectator, even though I stood with just a single card in my hand, refused to name his card.
After some thinking, I came up with a very simple solution. If I flashed the face of the card to someone else, before I asked the spectator to name his card, then the probability that the spectator refused to name his card became greatly reduced.

The funny thing was that I used that gambit in all the effects that my friend had commented on. Apparently there was a reason to look closer at this technique. Perhaps it had some unpredicted positive side-effects?

After a while I started to think about the term resonance.

In an instrument like a guitar, there is a big box that picks up, and amplifies the vibrations from the guitar strings. That principle is called resonance.
Perhaps there is a reason to assume that there is a similar resonance in human interactions? If so, how does it work?

Two years ago I saw a black and white French movie titled The Girl on the Bridge (Im not sure that it is the correct English title. It was produced by Christian Fechner). It was billed as a romantic movie. That was not quite true, it was in fact a romantic comedy, and a very funny one.
But no one laughed at first, since none of us knew that it was supposed to be funny. It took perhaps 10-15 minutes before we all had adjusted our mental attitude enough to laugh out loud.
Im fairly sure that if the movie had been billed as a comedy, then we all would have laughed even before the first really funny thing occurred in the movie.

Perhaps the same mechanics is valid in magic also? Perhaps you get more surprised if you know that you are going to get surprised? If the spectators are conditioned to get surprised, then the reactions should be stronger than if they start from a neutral state of mind? Ive been doing some experiments, and it seems like it works that way.

Lets say that you have the spectators in a semi-circle around you.
At extreme left is Spectator A.
In front of you is Spectator B.
And at extreme right you have Spectator C.

Spectator B has selected a card, which you just have produced from an impossible location.

As you say; Okay... to Spectator B, you flash the face of the card to Spectator C on your right.
Move the card to the left hand, and flash it to Spectator A on your left, as you continue; ..what card are you thinking of?
Bring up the card to your face.
Spectator B names his card; Two of Hearts.
Pause for a second, and ask Two of Hearts?
Spectator B confirms it, and you end by turning the face of the card towards him, saying; Two of Hearts!.

What seems to be happening in that sequence is the following:
When you flash the card to spectator C, he gives a small surprised response. Now everyone is wondering about that reaction. Is it the right card? Why did he look surprised? Will I also get surprised? Etc.

Spectator A is now conditioned to get surprised, so when the face of the card is flashed to him, he gives a bit bigger response, like a facial expression, a curse or a groan.

Spectator B, and the rest of the audience, are now certain that they soon will get surprised. The pause is there to increase the suspense. And when the card finally is revealed, the response becomes 2-3 times stronger than usual.

Spectator A and C are amplifying it further. As the card is revealed to spectator B, they are not looking at the card. They already knows that it is correct. Instead, they are studying spectator B, to see his reaction. And when they see the reaction, they recognise their own feeling; That is how I must have looked a second ago, and reacts one more time.

And that way the reactions resonates back and forth, just like the vibrations in an instrument.

This resonance effect is especially easy to observe when doing it for an audience where all the spectators know each other. Try it out.

Tom Stone

Jim Maloney_dup1
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Re: The Resonance Effect

Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » June 4th, 2002, 8:31 am

Originally posted by Tom Stone:
In an instrument like a guitar, there is a big box that picks up, and amplifies the vibrations from the guitar strings. That principle is called resonance.
Perhaps there is a reason to assume that there is a similar resonance in human interactions? If so, how does it work?
I definitely think this is true. Your example of the romantic comedy was a good one. Another thing to think about: How often do you laugh out loud when you watch a movie by yourself as opposed to when you watch a movie with a group of friends? From my experience, you will laugh louder, longer, and harder when you are in a group. So yeah, I think that people do tend to play off of each other.

Another example could be to check the reactions of people when you perform for one person and when you perform for several people. Again, the group tends to have bigger reactions than the individual.

It's certainly worthwile to explore how we can use this to our advantage. I'll have to try out the little gambit you described next time I'm performing for a group of people.


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Re: The Resonance Effect

Postby cataquet » June 4th, 2002, 9:26 am

I think this is really a case of audience conditioning. At the start, they don't know whether to applaud, laugh, etc. If you set up an action as their key to starting a reaction, that reaction is repeated and gains strength with repetition.

Another example is the comedic punch line that repeats itself over and over. At first, it's not funny, but after a few (well timed!) repetitions, the laughter gets stronger and stronger.

Bye for now


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Matthew Field
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Re: The Resonance Effect

Postby Matthew Field » June 4th, 2002, 1:55 pm

I think Harold Cataquet has hit the nail on the head -- it's audience conditioning.

That's why TV comedies have laugh tracks -- to let the audience at home know something is funny when they are isolated. Of course, this is overused, to "punch up" a non-funny line with a laugh-track laugh so there is an "upbeat" on which they can cut to a commericlal, for instance. They replace good writing with technology and hope no one will notice.

Watch any good performer -- Simon Lovell, for instance. He gets the audience accustomed to applause and laughter so they are properly conditioned. You can see him on the "Lemming Unleashed" video he put out a year or so ago, a complete recording of his act at Monday Night Magic. (Reviewed by me in Genii :genii: , by the way.)

I think Tom's got a great idea here.

Matthew Field


Re: The Resonance Effect

Postby Guest » June 7th, 2002, 6:02 pm

Thank you for the work...I will try this tonight. By the way, more than one movie has died at the box office because the audience was expecting to see a different kind of movie.

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Pete Biro
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Re: The Resonance Effect

Postby Pete Biro » June 7th, 2002, 6:48 pm

Wardrobe can help. When I first started working comedy clubs I wore conservative (but not cheap) Tuxes... then a photographer (a top San Francisco advertising one) who I chose to shoot some pix of me said, "Sure I'll do the job on one condition. After I finish taking pictures of you that YOU WANT... I want to shoot a few the way I want."

Needless to say, the photos he wanted (as he saw me) were 10 times better... but it was a DIFFERENT ME... a funnier looking me.

I decided to dress like he had dressed me. A tail coat and Levis with a tee shirt.

Now when I worked the same material went over at least twice as good, two to three times more laughter...

Interesting. This is why I tell anyone thinking of going pro to hire makeup, wardrobe, sound and lighting pros -- and anyone else that makes sense. You can't do it all yourself.

Stay tooned.

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