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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…

How to pick the right entertainment for your wedding

How to choose the right entertainment for your wedding

How to choose the right entertainment for your wedding

For most, a wedding day, much like the birth of your first second or third child is the most memorable day of your life. It’s about romance, theatre, love, expense, beauty, sometimes quirkiness but also the bringing together of family and friends to share your special day with you.

If ever there was a day for indulgence, excess and doing exactly what you want – this is it. For most brides and Grooms, one of the memorable parts of the day is the entertainment.

For most, this is a time to splash a little bit extra to give people something extra memorable. However, sometimes people like to play safe. Sure people say that an event or a day is what you make of it and the people that get involved and sure it is but a day like a wedding, or private party often involves groups of friends, family and acquaintances who have never met.

Providing a form of entertainment that appeals to all is not as easy as you may think. Of course, opting for a DJ or band is a safe option and rightly popular but there are two failings with this; one everyone has a band/DJ and I do mean everyone… and two, music is very subjective and not to everyone tastes. Would I recommend going without music, certainly not, but don’t place quite the emphasis on it as you think; music will come secondary and is something you can listen to in the car on the way to work, down the gym or on the radio. Sure music can be memorable…..

After music, there are of course variety acts and I would wholeheartedly embrace this approach. There are jugglers, comedians, silhouettists, acrobats and all manner of other weird and wonderful ideas. You can usually search for ideas online and invariably you would have to book these acts through and agency, which, although this would give you the peace of mind that the act will appear a your wedding (and if not a replacement would be sent) sadly, this is not a particularly personal approach to booking an act.

With the wedding day being an absolute personal affair, from personally deciding the venue, flowers, seating plans, food, date, cake and more, surely the act you book – you would like to meet to ensure they are a good fit for your wedding.

If your wedding is going to be very earthly and organic occasion, then booking a band who sell themselves as a wedding band but actually arrive and bash out some very heavy metal would obviously be jarring….

I have initially avoided mentioning anything about magicians and mind-readers and their role they can play at a wedding. Yes, I am looking at this field from biased stand-point, but am happy to offer an unbiased advantage and disadvantage of booking a mystery entertainer for your special day.

Magic, is an art form, which is possibly more popular than it has ever been and as such is becoming a more popular act to have at your wedding. Magic, when executed with aplomb and grace can take participants back to that infantile state of astonishment; a truly unique and memorable experience.  That said, when executed badly, magic can be distasteful, make people feel awkward or ‘tricked’. Mentalism or mind-reading can take people to an even higher plane of believability and astonishment and with there a lot fewer mentalists or mind-readers performing than magicians, you can guarantee that you are getting something even more special and unique.

For me, I always like to meet with prospective clients before taking a booking so that I can give them a little taster of what I offer and to see if I would be a right fit for their wedding and offer any suggestions as to the entertainment section of the big day.

I think it’s massively important to meet an act before booking to ensure they have the right personality and time of entertainment that they say they do. In a world of technology and the internet, sadly photos, testimonials and YouTube videos can all be manipulated using to offer the performer in the best light, sometimes taking years off their actual age too.

There are a few more considerations but for now, those are a few suggestions, thoughts and tips, which will hopefully make your life easier and booking the correct form of entertainment even simpler. For information of assistance in finding the right entertainment for your wedding please do not hesitate to get in touch on 07934 856 696 or magic@magicduncan.co.uk for more information.