Dear Friends in Magic,
Welcome to my bi-monthly magic newsletter (second Sunday, every other month).
Thanks for your responses to the December issue. Many of you loved hearing about the Peabody ducks and a now a few of you wanted to become the Duck Master! You can read my previous installments by going here. But let’s move forward to . . . .
A BIG IDEA
Sometimes, it's helpful to recall that magic is fundamentally an embodied practice rather than an intellectual pursuit.
Of course, intellect is involved. There are magic books to read and study, shows to build, technical problems to solve, and creative decisions to make. At another level, there is a business to run, a team to engage, emails to answers, and content to produce. At yet another level there is the whole (social) media buzz and blur about the latest tricks to buy, acts to follow, and videos to watch.
It’s all good. It’s all human. It’s all part of the work and world. And yet . . . .
Something profound happens when I just pick up my props and practice. Something pleasurable occurs when I turn off the “pings,” set the world aside, and rehearse my latest routine. Something utterly thrilling happens when I step through the curtain, greet this particular audience, and have to deliver with my eyes, voice, hands, and body.
Take it from a philosopher and a retired scholar: intellect begets more intellect. Opinions fuel further opinions. Thought yields more thinking. (“Monkey mind,” the Buddhists call it.) But magic happens when we simply stop . . . and pick up our beautiful tools and get to work with our body and on our body.
Do you station magic props around your home so you’re able to just pick them up and play? What are your very favorite, most pleasurable pieces to practice and rehearse? (One of my current favorites is Jeff McBride’s Knots Off Silk routine, “BEKOS.”) Are your performing tables set up and stationed close to a mirror so you can dive right in without thinking?
There is an old, common saying in magic attributed to Brother John Hamman (among others) that goes, “Magic happens in the mind of the audience.” This is a pretty abstract view of the matter and it’s only half correct. Magic can only happen in their minds if it first and primarily, and thoroughly, happens in my hands and body.
IN THE STUDIO
When this arrives in your inbox, I will be in the middle of a month entirely dedicated to finishing the primary writing on the first of two books that will share all of Eugene Burger’s unpublished material. For those who haven't heard the story:
In 2010, after coming out of the hospital for heart arrythmia, Eugene called me with a proposal: that we would immediately start working on two books I would write and then publish only after his death. These books were to share all of Eugene’s unpublished routines, scripts, talks, and other material, and they were very important to him.
I said yes, of course! We made an agreement and I soon flew to Chicago to start learning and writing the Master’s most prized secrets—a process that Eugene and I worked on diligently and, at his insistence, secretly right up to his death in August of 2017.
In early 2018, after a period of mourning, I was able to get back to work on the first book—which at this time is very far along. It is my plan and driving goal that “Book 1” will be released with a special presentation at the Magic & Mystery School’s Magic and Meaning Conference in Las Vegas, October 30-November 2, 2019. Stay tuned right here for the latest word on this exciting project.
IT’S NOT MAGIC, BUT . . . .
Having been a child of the 1960s, I started to buy record albums in the early 1970s. Today, these are called “vinyl” and “classic rock” (sigh), but for me it was simply music. And I couldn’t get enough of it—still can’t.
So recently I happened to watch a concert film of The Rolling Stones from their 1972 tour. Honestly, the Stones were never my favorite. I was much more interested in the art rock of Bowie, Rundgren, Yes, and middle-period Zeppelin. And I had, and have, a strong distaste for the misogyny and racism in some of their lyrics. Even so, rock music is one of my hobbies, so I put this film on . . . .
Dark stage with occasional camera flashes, the low spackle of audience babble, then suddenly a drum lick . . . another . . . the lights flare on, the crowd roars, and the band flies on stage as Keith Richards slams the signature riff for “Brown Sugar.” They’re off!
Jagger clapping, strutting, swinging, singing with full-throat. The band tight, loud, and driving. It’s a torrid pace—one-and-a half time faster than the record, but every note, lick, and fill is clean. With Bobby Keys’s sax squealing, somehow, impossibly, the sound swells, building to its crescendo. Then suddenly, after just 3 minutes and 22 seconds, it’s over. Phew!
I had to pause right there. My heart was racing—my eyes wide open. Because that’s how, in 1972, the Rolling Stones opened their show.
MYSTERY SCHOOL MINUTE
About every three weeks, the School posts a new short video from me with an idea designed to feed your head and inspire your hands. My most recent one is titled “Powerful Presentation.” You can view it here.
HAPPENING AT THE PRESS
I woke up on New Year’s Day to find a lovely email from Teller with words of praise for George Parker’s recent book Performing Magic with Impact. With his permission, here is what Teller wrote: “The conjuring methods [in this book] are well-honed and described with exceptional clarity. The rope routine in particular is a practical, polished gem of routining and handling.” And it is: George’s “12321 Rope Routine” is a thing of beauty.
To learn more about George’s book and our other fine items, please stop in at Theory and Art of Magic Press.
Next month, I will be in Las Vegas to teach 3 classes at the Magic & Mystery School. Perhaps a Las Vegas magic getaway is in your future? I’d love to be with you there. (For more information, go here.) Here’s the line up:
March 18-20: Medicine and Magic Seminar. You don’t need to be a doctor to attend; we welcome healers of every type. The teaching team will be Jeff McBride, me, and special guest instructor Dr. Ricardo Rosenkranz.
March 22-24: 3-Day Master Class. Don’t be scared by the title. What makes it a “master class” is that the attendees get to perform a 5-8 minute routine or act and get detailed direction and feedback from the faculty.
March 25-26: Real-World Close-Up Magic. This is the class where I teach my professional walk-around and restaurant sets. Jeff McBride will be my teaching partner, and you will learn his go-to close-up, too!
Thank you for being part of my network. Please share my newsletter and don’t hesitate to let me know what you think.
See you in April with all the latest!
Dean of the McBride Magic & Mystery School
Publisher, Theory and Art of Magic Press