By Joshua Jay - Sunday, October 25, 2020
Here’s something I think a lot of magicians would agree with--they might not admit it, but their buying patterns would indicate it’s true for many practitioners: the more interesting the method, the better the trick.
Let’s fix this fallacy straight away: the more interesting the effect, the better the trick.
I’ve been thinking about this a great deal as it relates to memorized deck magic.
An enormous appeal of memorized deck magic is the elegance of its methods. By assigning every card a stack number, a new world comes into a focus: a world of sunken keys, interlocking chains, and secret calculations. Stack magic tickles our brain in a new way, particularly since we’re all used to a steady diet of sleight-of-hand. It’s intoxicating to realize that we can manipulate a deck of cards in our minds as well as in our hands.
What often happens next, though, is troubling. We marvel over the wrong things. We’re impressed with elegant methods to find chosen cards, and we rank highest the effects that would fool us. We lose sight of what will amaze our audiences.
More often than not, the methods are more interesting than the effects. From the spectator’s point of view, nearly all impossible locations look the same: how the packets are cut and precisely when and what packets are shuffled are the sorts of details that magicians love to tinker with. But I’m unconvinced these details deserve more attention than the effect itself.
If you think I’m proving an obvious point—preaching to the choir—consider this: the subtle use of marked cards almost always improves (and sometimes replaces) more elegant but complex methods, and it renders most memorized deck effects stronger in performance. Yet in all my encounters and sessions with magicians, I can count on one hand the number of magicians who regularly employ a marked deck in their stack work. Another example: stack work is full of gambling material, but I would classify most of it as uninspiring. “But it works right out of stack,” one might argue, “as long as you switch cards 23 and 46 and do second deals on the third round of dealing.” The question we should be asking is fundamental: is this the most amazing effect of its kind that I can perform for an audience?
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