“What I love is I never know what I am working on or why I am working on it, they are not ideas they are instincts… The latest thing I am working on it is something really… I do not know what it is yet, and that is good. I like not to know for as long as possible. Then it tells me the truth, instead of me imposing the truth.”
There words come from one of the most amazing revolutionary artists I know. You should definitely check his brilliant TED talk.
The journey I started in magic some years ago, as a performer and a creator, let me know how truthful these words are. I have been living by them from a while and when I did not, I got frustrated.
The late Gabi Pareras put it on his own words when he says that you have to listen to the magic routine (“escuchar al juego de magia”), so you understand what it is demanding from you.
That is because any artistic idea deserving that name is an entity on tis own, it is alive. You do not create an idea for a magic act, you discover it. You do not manufacture an idea as if it were a wall made out of bricks, is more like a beautiful butterfly floating on air you encounter on a walk or an amazing song that you happen to tune on the radio. Why I am so sure about it? Well, you cannot find an idea at will, you cannot decide to have an idea at any given moment, you can try hard to put in the mood of having or receiving ideas, but it is up to the idea to find you or to shun away from… of course you better be working when it calls to your door, but it is not up to you anyway.
When you find an idea there are basically two opposite paths to follow (and a wide range of grays), and it is not always easy to discern which is the one you are taking.
On one hand you can appropriate it, that is, subject it to your criteria, make it fit your expectations, your competence, your objectives, or your preferences. The other thing you can do is ride the idea and follow it wherever it takes you.
Put like that, nobody would say that they would prefer to do the former, right? the latter sounds much more fun …. yes! but it is also much more difficult. Why? Because if the idea is good, it would lead you to places you do not necessarily willing to go, because you want to go somewhere else, because it is not comfortable, because to get there you have to face your shortcomings, grow and to let go of things, sometimes even the idea itself.
At the end of the journey sometimes you find yourself talking about “your” act, and it is yours in the sense of the experience you have shared with it, like a relationship. It is so noticeable when you see a performer that is not performing “his” act, it is like seeing a couple having dinner on their first tinder date… but that is a different story.
Of course, there are different levels to subjugate an idea, you can kill it quickly, suffocate it slowly, but there are also very subtle ways to constraining it… let me explain. When you first face a particular creative problem, you are ignorant and incompetent, your toolbox is empty, there is no box actually… but also your look is fresh, you are in the best conditions to be all ears to figure out what is the idea demanding so you can go try to find it. On the other hand, if you already faced similar problems in the past, you have developed knowledge on the field, you are knowledgeable to so extent, you already have a toolbox filled with tools and tricks you used to solve those problems in the past… but then you are also subject to the Law of the instrument which can be formulated as “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. You thought process even your perception is limited by the resources you have at hand. That toolbox will provide you a lot of useful things but as a counterpart now you will struggle to get out from it, to try to think from the outside for a while.
In magic that happens all the time when you acquire competence in a particular field or with a particular element, say cards or coins. Most of the times, I find myself facing a new card magic routine with my rusty set of tools and it is so frustrating, I realize it is just me and it is boring, there is no magic there. Do you know that feeling? While on other occasions, the fewer, I just lose track of time and I do not have that sense of me making up stuff, it is like a conversation in good company, and you are left with a beautiful present.
The thing is that it is so hard to get competent, to understand the principles of magic and develop your own criteria, while keeping a fresh look at things… you have to learn to unlearn certain things, so you become a better listener, so you get wiser… You cannot unlearn it all or not learn it in the first place because then you will remain incompetent and that is no good either.
This leads me to the following routine that I want to share with you, it is one of my most precious pieces, Perverse Silver. In a few weeks, I will let it go, which is a nicer way of saying that I am going to market a video in which I perform it, explain all the details (I am even producing a nice set of coins… why on earth did I …)
This routine taught me many lessons; one is precisely what this little article is about. I feel it is my routine in the sense that we‘ve been in a relationship for 10 years now, but I did not create it, it was given to me. As a coin routine is quite sophisticated, both technically demanding yet comfortable to perform, things feel to be in place both in the external and the internal life.
Believe it or not this is the first coin routine a started working, the first coin routine I ever performed in a real show. It all started with Chris Kenner’s Menage et trois (AKA 3 Fly), as many other magicians I fell in love with it. I had no experience whatsoever with coins, so I was forced to adapt my card magic toolbox and my intuition. I vividly remember the two nights in which I developed 95% of the method (separated by a session with my gang where I received very valuable input) … I felt my brain was running at the speed of light, I had the answers before I was able to articulate the questions… I never felt that again in such an intense way. Of course, it took me much more time to figure out how I was to perform it, how to interpret in front of a real audience, understanding the silence the rhythm… and to acquire the necessary skills.
I still perform it practically in every single show that I do. I forgot to mention this on the video (it is already produced), for me this routine works as a thermometer, when I perform it provides plenty information about my vibe and the audience’s. Sometimes they start clapping early on the routine, sometimes they laugh out oud, other times they remain silent till the very end…
If I am leaving something valuable for the magic community for posterity, chances are it is this routine. Here you have it!!
Thanks for reading!