What we study in private is only, say, 50% of the overall lesson or learning of magic, but it is of course the basis for the other 50% (what we learn in performance) and deserves close analysis. Probably the best way to learn magic is via a triangulation between books – which ideally means illustrated textbooks – videos, and a teacher/mentor.
Greater wholes and what produces and binds them are hard to define. The synergy of, say, the media and the events being reported by them remains vague and peripheral as we keep them separated into their constituent parts. We never think we are looking through a camera lens or through the mind of a journalist, who the cameraperson or writer is and how they came to be there, what their affiliations or biases are; only what we view through their lens as if their camera or words are our own senses. Our own biases, of course, are just as hidden, and what we see is reality – that’s it.
Problems are often created out of thin air by failing to see the reality of a situation or concept. One imagines that a certain situation pertains or has changed due to some unfamiliar but actually unconnected factor, when in reality nothing has changed. The Double Un—–t is always the same, regardless of whether one is c—ing cards from top to bottom or from middle to top. The number of cards in the top section – one or 25 – is an immaterial factor. When those cards are moved to the bottom, the card below them comes to the top. One is automatically a byproduct of the other. The number of cuts is also irrelevant; you could have simply made a single, straight cut.
There are many parallels between magic and other fields such as music or even cookery. For example you can think of a card trick as a recipe and a sleight as an ingredient in that recipe. If the trick is ‘Twisting the Aces’ then the integral ingredient is of course the E—— Count. There are almost as many ways of executing the EC as there are magicians attempting to do it. By that I mean that my own idiosyncratic handling will be different from yours; and this is without those aspects that are technically and quantifiably different.
One of the most desired card sleights among dabblers is the Diagonal P— Shift (DPS), despite the fact that it is one of the least used card sleights. If this sounds contradictory, it isn’t: popularity is unrelated to functionality. Of course it’s possible that people don’t use the DPS because it’s difficult, but there are many difficult moves that magicians use all the time. The main reason is that the concept behind it is not particularly useful.
I taught the ‘Geiger Counter’ card trick to a couple of nine-year-old magic students recently. The theme of the trick is that due to ‘human radiation’ left behind on a chosen card, the Joker – your makeshift Geiger counter – can locate their card. Both of the boys loved this trick and both knew intuitively that the theme was a flight of fancy (which, nonetheless had a ring of truth to it on some level: humans do emit a form of radiation; the best fictions contain a seed of truth).
The difference between something seen and something reasoned or thought about is obvious. I can show you, say, two apples and three bananas (five fruits in total) or alternatively ask you to think of ‘2a + 3b = 5f’. One is perception (or a mixture of perception and thought) and the other, purely thought. In magic, however, the differences between visual magic and cerebral – tricks seen and those created in the mind – are not immediately clear, mainly because most tricks are a mixture of the two.
We have looked at the multi-dimensional world of routining for the informal performer. In that world there are fewer formulae and fixed ways of looking at routining, because informally one is not doing long routines for captive audiences, but at most linking tricks individually or in pairs for people and groups who may not have asked for or expected a magic show. As mentioned there, we might produce the four Aces and then do a trick with them, but we won’t do a five-minute routine of Ace tricks if we know what’s good for us (and our spectators). To do so would be to end up ‘putting on a show’ and dominating a situation where, probably, all people wanted to see at most were a couple of card tricks as part of the broader social interaction. It’s equivalent to someone asking ‘How are you?’ and then using them for the next half hour as a surrogate therapist.
As soon as you learn more than one piece of magic, the question arises as to what order to do the tricks in. Of course with two tricks it isn’t hard; you just do whichever trick feels right, first. However, as you develop a repertoire over the months and years this approach to routining – doing tricks in whichever order feels right – remains the core approach. Other factors such as choreography and logistics become more significant the more one develops magically, and the professional must be acutely aware of peaks and troughs of impact; but the artistic and intuitive side of the equation remains strongly significant.
Rules are like inflatable armbands when a child is learning to swim: once you can swim the armbands become a hindrance. Once we start to become competent at magic we develop an intuitive sense of when to do certain things and when not to; continuing to think rigidly in terms of ‘rule #7 says such and such’ will hinder us. But when we are starting out our knowledge is less sophisticated and benefits from general guidance in the form of simple rules. The truth of many of these rules still resonates for years to come.