This topic represents my current thought process.
I became fascinated with this once Darwin Ortiz released his book Designing Miracles.
This is the Play Book on routine Construction, Design and Deception.
Here is my attempt to document my thoughts and understandings of my studies so far.
I will use my routines as an example to support this conversation along with a video just to keep things interesting.
Ok, to begin, let’s distinguish a few things.
We have a few strategies at our disposal to create, design strong and beautiful magic.
Sleight of Hand
Additional Paraphernalia (cryptic description to avoid exposure)
Psychology & Audience Attention Control
Script & Premise
Personality and Self Expression
Tommy Wonder gave us a beautiful distinction – The Three Pillars, which represents the first three items on this list.
Study The Books of Wonder to learn more about this, it will support your understanding along with this conversation.
Darwin Ortiz presented a stunning evaluation with his book Strong Magic.
This is an academic and rigorous analysis on tools for Showmanship and Creative Presentation.
The first book I read on this subject was Professional Presentations by John Mendoza. This was a good book for the early 1980s. Strong Magic went further and beyond.
Creative Showmanship is one thing, what about the Design and Construction of our Routines?
Look at those two words:
We could also add,
These terms come from Engineering so it stands to reason, we magicians must think like Engineers when crafting our routines.
Now, it has just occurred to me, taking a routine and replacing the Construction and Design with an inferior Blueprint is the mark of a hack.
“An individual who doesn’t understand how to mix concrete correctly, or how to let it set so the foundation is rock solid.
This individual will build on a sandy foundation because he isn’t aware that there are better approaches to mixing and laying a foundation that will support the infrastructure”.
I Love Metaphors
Let’s go deeper.
It’s one thing to be limited by technical ability – an individual can still present strong magic with BASIC TOOLS.
“Some of my very best routines are almost free of technical sleights”.
It is important to distinguish that the sleights used will affect the strength of your magic.
“Watering down a beautiful routine that creates beautiful magic with tools that are easier to execute and inferior is to kill and destroy a great work of art”.
It is important to understand that the craft of Magic, like music, like Painting or the Martial Arts is a highly skilled disciplined. There are no short cuts to Technical Mastery. I don’t care how a trick is done, all I care about is the effect.
If the effect inspires me and requires of me a set of skills I do not yet possess, I will practice like there is no tomorrow, I will find a way to have a breakthrough in my self expression and technqiue. Under no circumstances will I mess with the original Blueprint and Data.
Did you know that Michelangelo created his David and many of his other famous pieces out of Clay first ?
He did this so he could get a sense of his vision before he carved the beautiful Carrara Marble.
This parallels with creative magic.
The trial and error process of testing different approaches before deciding on the right handling and presentation is very important. This certainly gives me a wide range of options to create from.
It took me twenty-five years of study Research and Development to come up with my routine The Ultimate Travelers. I should also mention I was not technically ready as a 14 year old when I first learnt this routine.
Let’s take a break and enjoy some magic.
The video below is from a show I recently gave.
The Intuition Speller
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Card at a Number
The Coins & Cylinder
Enjoy the video and then I will follow up with some observations about the construction of this act.
Let’s break it down.
This sequence of effects are normally presented in a social setting. The video is only the second time I have performed this Act in a Formal setting – it works well.
As an opening effect, The Intuition Speller is very strong. It communicates very quickly that strange things are going to happen with this deck of cards.
Out of Sight Out of Mind is the perfect follow-up for me. Here we have a demonstration of what feels like your genuine mind reading. A psychological experiment that is so powerful, it can really disturb an audience. This routine communicates very powerfully that I appear to be much more than someone just doing cards tricks.
My routine Synergy is beautiful, it has gone through many variations in handling and yet, the premise remains. It’s all about connecting with the audience. At this stage in the act, I like to feel the audience is on my side. This particular routine allows me to bond and connect with the audience in a very powerful way. The fact the magic happens in their hands is also a very powerful point.
The Sting is one of the most powerful Gambling Routines I have ever presented, period. This is where I send out a very powerful message; I am a master of my craft. After this routine, the audience must know and feel the cards are my passion and what they have seen transcended all logic and reasoning.
The next routine was 52 Factorial – ACAAN to you and me. My handling and presentation puts a lot of emphasis on the deck being shuffled by the spectator. This is a critical factor for me in this plot; I will address this in another post. For now, consider the impact it generated, a card and number recorded on my business card before any dealing – the deck was shuffled by the spectator. A perfect outcome and an extraordinary moment.
Although it was not seen in the video, I follow this with Lucky Charms. I did not feature this routine in the footage because I am not ready to share it. Trust me, it’s beautiful beyond measure.
The final routine in this particular set is John Ramsay’s Coins & Cylinder – this brings my performance back to me, the audience get to experience pure magical artistry and this brings the performance home in a nice way.
Did you notice all of the routines started with the spectator shuffling the deck – this is a powerful context to come from. Everything happens in an open and fair way. They think of a card, they touch one, strange things happen without any intervention from me.
This is how I design my magic.
Even the Gambling Routines; did you notice there was no exposure or education of certain techniques?
I don’t believe in educating an audience about my tools, I use my tools to create extraordinary moments.
Did you notice, with the exception of The Sting and Coins & Cylinder, the routines were technically easy to do. I have taught those routines to my students and they are enjoying great reactions with them.
Remember, the effect comes first, if you feel inspired then its time to go to work.
It’s important to clearly define your style and create a delivery that matches congruently.
As an example, my friend Jason Ladayne is very clear about his character, style and delivery. I admire the fact that he is authentic in his declaration and backs up every single claim with astonishing demonstrations of Card Control, Gambling Demonstrations and straight Card Magic all from the context of the Gambling Expert. It fits him well, he carries it with conviction and delivers it with technical virtuosity.
The routines I perform now fit my style better now than ever. I have eliminated a lot of junk from my repertoire and focused exclusively on routines that fit my self-expression.
Please study Darwin’s book Designing Miracles, it will teach you how lay people really think about magic. The Act in this video was designed based on what I learnt from this book.
I have a lot more to say on this subject, consider this Blog Post a Prologue, there is more to come.
Thank you for reading.