Art or Practicality?
Being a magician can lead to some tough choices. For example, I’ve just spent two and a half months working on a routine. It’s four to six minutes and has involved a lot of practice, thought, and hard work. I will probably be performing it for the first time tonight. I will also be performing another trick. I bought it from a magic supplier last week and it took me maybe twenty minutes to learn. So the decision I and every one of my magic colleagues faces is this: Do I spend two and a half months working and practicing to create a routine, or simply buy a trick from someone else?
It all boils down to hard work. Hard work has gone into both routines. The difference is that the hard work for the second illusion only has to really be done once. After that anyone can buy the method and learn it. There is, of course, still the performance and a few things to learn, however that is true of anything you will be presenting to the public. So both need a lot of hard work, thought, trial and error, but with one that has to be done by everyone and with the other, it only has to be done once.
Take another example. In the summer I created a card trick which I demonstrated to a few friends, both of whom create effects for sale. The comments that came back were a huge eye opener to me. They both liked the effect, thinking that it was really good. However, their concern was that it involved too much technical magic; the performer had to carry out to many moves. I was really confused by this. For a start I am not by any stretch of the imagination the world’s most technical card magician, and any moves I carry out should, in my opinion, be able to be performed by anyone calling themselves a magician. The other issue was that I had a grand total of only two of these moves. I thought that even if someone wasn’t able to perform them they would be able to quickly learn them. In fact I was rather proud that the trick was practically ‘self-working’. I learned two important lessons that day. I know *nothing* about marketing magic tricks, and a whole lot of magicians aren’t interested in having to work for their applause.
Now I’m as lazy as the next person, or rather I would be if I could be bothered getting into a queue. However, I’m not convinced I’d even be comfortable calling myself a magician if I didn’t at least try to push myself. I do want to say that this isn’t me criticising anyone who uses any kind of self-working or bought tricks, whether it’s just one or forms an entire set. I use a few myself and I certainly don’t think someone needs to have memorised every word written by Tarbell before they can go out and entertain. Bought effects can very often be exceptionally powerful, and the audience can really enjoy them, so no harm, no foul! But learning to do tricks with any object that might by lying around is part of what’s great about being a magician, and you can’t do that without a fundamental schooling in at least the foundations of what it is we do.
In the end, I think it’s just about finding the level that you as a performer are happy with. I intend to go on practicing the fundamentals, buying illusions that speak to me, and creating my own, brand new magic.