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What is astonishment in magic for children: Part 3

The art of astonishment part 3

The art of astonishment part 3

The field of magic can be a fickle and judgmental business with some entertainer looking upon the world of children’s entertainment with scorn from the lofty heights of adult magic. I do not shy away from the fact that I also perform children’s magic and offers different and arguably greater rewards to share in moments of astonishment. If we, as magicians create magic to create astonishment and enjoy that experience from the participants / spectators then we have a more open blank canvas to work with in the form of children – in that (as mentioned previously) their world is still unfolding before their eyes. It is here, that I must interject and say that performing for magic is certainly not easier because of this. In fact it is a completely different dynamic. For children the magical prestige at the end, will certainly garner a higher level of gasp of astonishment – for children it is the entertainment ride and fun on the way to this plateau of astonishment which is the most important element of performing to children.

If you asked “Do you believe in magic? Do you believe in mind reading?”

(to a child:)

The answer would be an unashamed ‘Yes’. When we start absorbing information at our infantile years we can see a bird in the sky. We know a bird flies. We see adults walking around. We know adults walk. Over time we too, stop crawling, start toddling and eventually start walking. We know we can walk but we know we cannot fly. (Except Superman) If we then see someone fly based on our knowledge of the world that human’s cannot fly, this by deduction must be magic.

As we grow older, our reality and beliefs are shaped into what is normal and what is not normal. Everything else, is either impossible – or if you see something as impossible (and discard the belief-limiting sceptical shackles which regards it as a ‘trick’) you a left with pure ‘magic’.

Indulge me for a second.

In 1848, 3 young sisters by the names of Kate, Leah and Margaret Fox, garnered worldwide public  acclaim for delivering public séances, and being able to produce rappings and tappings of spirits. Over the years, they held many séances – usually extremely frivolous, giving advice about stocks and shares, love or marital affairs, and alike. Over time, however, their relationships lead to heavy drinking and quarreling and in 1888, after many years of members of the public believing in the magic and mystery shrouding these tappings – their performances were exposed as fraudulent and the sisters exposed how they had been able to create the sound of the raps by cracking their knuckles, joints and toes and the control of the muscles below the leg of the knee which control the tendons of the foot and in turn allow this action of the toe and ankle bone. These techniques were not commonly known and as a result – were perceived as magic or more…..

Keep your eyes peeled for part 4 in my look at astonishment in the world of magic. Next post will look at some people who have attempted to show magic as real to the world. These have cause outrage and upset when debunked, but intrigue, excitement and even a cult following before their lies and myths were blown….we want to believe yet we also want to know the explanation to magic. Part 5 looks at some people, who, just for a moment, made the world believe in magic and Psychic phenomenon.

What is astonishment in magic for adults: Part 2

Art of astonishment part 2

Art of astonishment part 2

If you asked “Do you believe in magic? Do you believe in mind reading?”

(to an adult:)

If the answer is yes, then that is fantastic that you have been able to retain that glorious level of imagination that has sadly dissipated from the mind of others. If the answer is no, then I’d be willing to bet that if I asked the same question to your seven year old self – the answer would be very different! This, is because, over time we lose our infantile state of astonishment and childlike sense of wonder and most importantly imagination. Our minds are sullied when we are told there is no tooth fairy, father Christmas, Leprechauns, and magic and mind reading.

Magic becomes fiction. If the climax of the effect ends with a question of ‘how did you do that’ part of them has failed to understand but the other part of them scrabbles to make sense of the world again. Nobody watches Toy Story and says – it was a great movie but I don’t think Woody and Buzz were actually real – I think they may have used special FX. Nobody was angry with Steven Spielberg for not using real animals! The premise of fiction is that it is possible to communicate the truth through fiction. If a magician is trying to fool the audience or trick the audience, then they are delivering and executing their performance exactly wrong.

For me, I can honestly say I struggle to watch a lot of magic. Why – because there is a lot of bad magic out there. Not in so much of the effects themselves (which are mere finger flicking pieces of skills – which have a time and place) but in so much of the execution by a fumbling fool of a magician who is performing in favour of his own self-importance and wanting his ego-massaged at the sacrifice of delivering pure astonishment.

That said, when magic is delivered with the aplomb, finesse and beauty which it can be – and take you to a level of astonishment – there is nothing finer – even for a magician whose recognised sleights of hand, slight of tongue in the form of linguistic based mentalism effects. Cynicism is sadly a seductive state of mind which others are easily infected by.

For a magician, whose career or hobby is shrouded in elements of duplicity, misdirection, stories and essentially fiction as well as countless other factors all tightly woven to produce a small few second window of astonishment – astonishment (at least for me) becomes harder to find. But when it does, (for me) it lingers longer, sweeter and more glorious as once my mind has bathed in the sea of astonishment, scrambles to find the box of magical techniques, ruses and skills inside my mind. It really is a thing of wonder and astonishment to me, and nothing finer……

As I mentioned before, as a child, the world is amazing. We rush to our mum’s open arms with a huge sycamore leaf. But then we see another, and another and another and as autumn draws to a close, we are no longer seduced by the amazing big leaf or leaves. When we taste something new – our taste buds our fired into life discerning the subtle flavours, textures and tastes but as we get older and new experiences become less and less we find it harder and harder to become impressed, amazed and astonished.

What is astonishment? What is magic? Part 1

The art of astonishment part 1

The art of astonishment part 1

“If you take any activity, any art, any discipline, any skill, take it and push it as far as it has ever been pushed before, push it into the wildest edge of edges, then you force it into the realm of real magic”

-Tom Robbins

What is magic?

To define what astonishment is in the context of magic, we must first define magic.

Magic is something that takes us back to that infantile state of astonishment where the world is unfurling before our very eyes. This state of astonishment is the very core of magic. Magic is an art. The art of astonishment. Without astonishment, you are merely an entertainer.

If you are merely an entertainer, those you are entertaining for are unlikely to be investing in what you are doing. To achieve astonishment, you must believe in what you are doing. If you believe, it is far easier for the participant to suspend their disbelief and buy into the magic.

Assuming you believe in your craft, it is then possible to use this magic as a vehicle to create the illusion of impossibility. The only way to render something impossible is of course to eliminate all of the possibilities before that final crescendo of impossibility is reached. If you navigate the elements of your effect removing all elements of possibility before you reach the prestige, then you are by its very definition, left with nothing but an unadulterated level of impossibility  – the by-product of which is the participants’ astonishment.

The more pure the routine we demonstrate, the less eliminations of possibility we need to demonstrate.

You must have a self-belief.  A self-belief in yourself and most importantly in the magic. (Note I refer to the magic as ‘the’ and not ‘yours’. This is a different entity. It is one which is shared. One which hides. One which can be created and lost in the blink of an eye. One which can only be seen once by one pair of eyes. Belief shapes what is believed. This belief will allow you to take them by the hand and guide them down the path to astonishment and from them, to reach out to your hand and allow you to show them the way.

If we convey our belief in magic, ourselves and what we are doing, then we can take the participant on an unbridled journey to that place of astonishment.  There are of course, different levels of astonishment and different feels they summon up. But to truly engage in that moment, one must let go of their skepticsm, belief structure and buy into your frame, albeit briefly.

How often does a magician or the others in the group hear the phrase; “Can you make my wife disappear?” and have to don a false smile so as not to appear rude and convey the thoughts of “If I had a pound for every time I heard that…..” Potentially, this person has a greater distance to travel to believe in what you do if they want to, or you want them to feel that heightened state of astonishment. Keep your eyes posted for part 2 in my astonishment series…