This essay has come off the back of my reading some of my older ones the other day and thinking "I never actually explained what I meant by magical nouse did I..."
Magical - adj, produced by or using magic
Nouse - (slang) n, know-how, practical skills
Magical Nouse - the practical skills applied to the production of magic.
I've talked of magical nouse before, but after reading through a couple of old essays noticed that, unless you're familiar with that word 'nouse' (which I think may be more UK than anywhere else slang) it might well be difficult to grasp. And I thought about what magical nouse was and thought about how to define it. And then I thought, in giving it its own dictionary type definition I would probably bring up some things that would warrent futher discussion. And so you find me here, writing this; an essay on what magical nouse is and more.
So what is it? Well, as stated above it is the practical skills applied to the production of magic. That is to say that magical nouse is the knowledge of magical theory and magical practice that you apply in real world terms to make magical things happen. To give an example of this, magical nouse is all the sleights you use and patter you know and misdirection you've learned for your ACR. It's an umbrella term that catches all these things, and more. Magical nouse is all those sleights and misdirections and tips and tricks you've picked up over your course in magic and hold in either your head or on your book shelf. It's all the silly little gimmicks you have and understand but never use. It's everything you know regards magic, both practical and theorectical (in a psychological sense of the word), that allows you to alter, improve and create routines. So how does one load up on this magical nouse?
Simple truth no. 1 - the sun will set at the end of the day and rise again tomorrow.
Simple truth no. 2 - If you pay money to see Superhero Movie it's your fault when they bring the next one out at Christmas.
Simple truth no. 3 - Everyone that can be considered a magician is blessed with magical nouse.
Ok, so we need to look at that simple truth a little deeper; everyone that can considered a magician? Well, this isn't as all discluding as it might sound. Are you an uncle to children who think it genius when you pull yet another coin from their ear? I'd imagine that you aren't looking to futher your magical arsenal and as such wouldn't require any of this nouse anyway. I also imagine you don't call yourself a magician. I wouldn't consider you to be a magician even if you did. Are an uncle to children who think it genius when you pull yet another coin from their ear because they want to know what mad thing is going to happen to it this time? Will it bend again, or change into a different coin, or vanish and appear in their pocket? I imagine now you're the kind of fellow who has an interest in magic that makes you a hobbyist. You'll own a book or maybe two, you'll practice the odd sleight so you can try something new with that coin next time the kids come round, but you'll still not call yourself a magician. But I'd consider you one. To me a magician is someone who takes the art of magic seriously (to a certain extent) and tries to progress within it. A magician is not simply someone who performs tricks and doesn't tell you how they're done. A magician is not a librarian of effects, housing hundreds of thousands without ever learning one to a proper performance level. A magician is someone who takes time and care, and strives to create something that will leave spectators feeling they have seen the impossible made possible. A magician is someone who performs magic, and gives their audience the chance to emote sincerely, be it wonder and joy or unease and chilling fear. I say certain extent up there because there are those of us who are professional performers who take magic as seriously as you can, and there are those of us who are hobbyists, causal performers (but never casual in our performance, this must never be the case. Even those of us who are in no way professional in employment with our magic must perform in a professional manner to our audiences, else we do our art a disservice and harm it for those for whom it is also a livelihood) and people for whom magic is great fun, but never a bread winner. However, we all will take magic seriously enough to make it at our chosen level. One will never become a professional if one has a casual attitude to magic. And the party magician has little need of a practice regime akin to that of a professional close-up artist, it would be taking things too far. This whole topic has been covered in more depth in Professional vs. Amatuer. But in visiting it again, albeit briefly, I hope I have clarified that definition of my simple truth somewhat.
So if anyone who is 'magician' is the owner of magical nouse, where does it come from and how do we garner more. I'm afraid that the answer to this one may not be to everyone's tastes...
Read, watch, talk and learn.
It's that simple. It really is that simple. The easiest way to boost your knowledge of magical practice and magical theory and magical psychology and magical gimmickery is to buy books, buy DVDs, talk to other magicians and to learn what you have. Keep hold of that idea learn, it's hugely important as you will soon find out. So, the beginner in magic owns (I'm guessing) any combination of the following:
Mark Wilson's Complete Course
13 Steps to Mentalism (Corinda)
The Royal Road to Card Magic (Huggard and Braue)
Granted I may be way off here, but I've found this the most standardised shopping list for the green magician. As a beginner in any of the many paths and types of magic I can think of no better library of nouse you could ask for. Note library in its 'collection of materials' way and not the slightly derrogative way (which I will explain shortly) above. Mark Wilson has given you more than you could ever ask for on probably a broader spectrum than you would have asked for in his fantastic book. Dive in feet first and start learning. This is what I did. I grabbed two packs of cards and the Complete Course and got stuck straight in. I learned my Hindu Shuffle, my 10-20 force, my count force, I even had a go at a couple of the flourishes. I can't say that I have ever used a Hindu Shuffle, or indeed anything remotely connected to it, since I got Royal Road, and then moved further into the field and into the 'medium' difficulty level stuff. But it's still there, both in the book and in my head. If you threw a deck my way and said "Chris, do me a Hindu Shuffle" I could. If you added "oh, and can you try controlling the top stock" I could have a darn good go. I haven't used a count force since I used as beginner not knowing riffles and classics and various others. But it's still there, in my head and in the book. As the beginner moves onwards and upwards, at what ever speed he feels comfortable with and to where ever he feels most comfortable going, he will begin to leave some of these effects and practices behind. I'd be surprised to find any but the most rigid and conservative performer using the patter given by Wilson for anything they did after a few months; I know that I sort of used his patter and found it lacking in this day and age. Times have changed and so has magic. Be flexible and allow yourself to flow. But that's a whole other essay for the future. It didn't take me long to start using my beginner's nouse to come up with new dialogue that worked much better. It didn't take me long to work out that Cards through Handkercheif is somewhat past its sell by date, but that Do As I Do will never grow old. I figured out that people don't like Hindu Shuffles because nobody uses them in the world I worked in; I quickly switched to riffles and overhands and all the controls and forces associated. Even within my first few months as a fledgeling magician I was quickly gifted with nouse and used it. So surely it stands to reason that as you get 'older' in magic and gather more extensive a library you will become more extensively 'noused'?
Well, yes and no really. You see, the danger here (and it is an ever present danger, one that we are sadly all too susceptable to falling prey to) is becoming the so called (by me if no-one else) 'Library Magician'. The Librarian if you will. Remember our simple little rule up there? Read, watch, talk and learn. Remember how learn is the biggy? This is what separates the magician from the Librarian. Give me a moment, I'm going to count my books and DVDs. 21 books/booklets and 13 DVDs, not including single gimmick instructions or any of my digital magic (PDFs and PC videos). And that includes Royal Road, Mark Wilson, 13 Steps, Expert at the Card Table and 3/4 of the PSI Series. The magicians that stand on my shelf range through Wilson, Huggard and Braue, Banachek, Brown, Sankey, Strebbler and Mayne, and there's a few more in there that are less well known such as Curzon, Lemezma, Nyman, Marlow, Justice and Einhorn. That's alot of knowledge by anyone's standards. I have methods of card manipulation, mind manipulation, metal manipulation and allsorts inbetween. So how is it I'm not a Librarian? A mere collector of knowledge? Well, to tell you the truth, of late I have become something of a Librarian in that I have put magic truely on my back burner as I work towards my career goal of becoming a teacher. But for the last 3 years, and as soon as I can start practicing again knowing I have a little free time to dedicate to it, there is not more than two or three books/DVDs I have purchased and received I have not learned things from. Occasionally one thinks something looks ace and upon receipt finds it lacking in material you will use. It goes into storage and there it stays. It beefs up your library (note the little L, it gives it its dictionary definition. Big L is the magician one) and little else. However, I have found that one rarely takes nothing away from these books/DVDs. Indeed, on occasion I have taken the method given to me by the magician, tried it, tested it, found it pants and set to work on making it good. I haven't used his method but I have taken his idea and made it fit me and my way of doing things. I watch every disc I buy, I read every book I buy, and I try to learn at least one thing from each source I buy to a semi-performance level. I get it in my head and have patter for it and everything. This way, when show time comes around and I'm writing a set list, I have plenty of effects that need a little spit and polish and I have a show. I don't have to learn everything I want to do from scratch. But again, how to make shows is a whole separate discussion. I try to take something from everything I own, every PDF, every PC video, every DVD, every book, every instruction booklet, everything. I try to learn something from every magician I meet, and not just a new effect, maybe a new sleight, a new idea, a new misdirection, or a new heckler stopper. And it is this taking and biding my time with my library, and my constant learning from it that gives me this magical nouse. Every effect I learn, every misdirection, sleight and psychology, every tip and trick, every last little bit of magic I learn from patter to practice goes into my head. It gets logged with the magic stuff and it stays there in varying degrees of clarity and ease of recall. So, when I am writing a show and I suddenly realise I am an entire piece of magic missing and have nothing from my arsenal to just put in the gap, I apply creative thinking and magical nouse to the problem and create an effect from scratch. I have the sleights, the patters, the ideas, the practical skills all there in my head. All there from years and years of collecting and learning magic. It's what allows me to see a method to an effect I'm learning and say "actually, I think this control works better for me there" and change it round. It's what allows me to look at the patter given for an effect and think "no, it's dated and no spectator will believe it" and write my own. It's what allows me to continually improve my magic in both practice and theory, and in doing that gather more experience and nouse again.
So what's to take from this? Two things I think. Of most importance to me is to take away the idea that it is not wrong to have plenty of source material at your disposal, so long as you are using it to your full advantage and gathering as much knowledge, know-how and nouse from it as possible. Read, watch, talk and learn. Build up a library, meet with other magicians and talk magic, just make sure that you learn from it. And of slightly lesser importance is to recognise that if you are a magician, and you learn and do magical things, you are soon to be thinking of magical things and using your magical nouse. Because regardless of whether you are greener than green or older than time, everyone in the magic world has magical nouse, and the ability to use it to make themselves better than before.