Although magicians are fond of saying that a magician is really an actor playing the part of a magician, I believe that magic – at least fine sleight-of-hand – has a greater kinship to music than it does to acting.
Sure, one is playing a character onstage even if that character is one’s self – or, in my case, a “likeable eccentric.” But for magic to really shine, that is, to resonate, I believe it should have a lyrical quality that manipulates emotion, just as a melody does for music. Timing, pacing, rhythm and dynamic range not only enhance the experience, but they also add layers of texture to the deception.
Tricks is a concert of magic in other ways.
As I have alluded to previously, the very pieces that I have elected to perform represent the magic equivalent of the “Great American Songbook.” But, instead of being works by Gershwin, Arlen and Cahn, I turned to magical “composers” such as Alexander Herrmann, Charles Bertram, Dai Vernon and Robert Harbin for my inspiration.
I’ve cherry picked the great compositions from hundreds of years of magic history, and arranged them – working on some of these “charts” for decades – for Tricks. So, if the work shines, it is because I’ve built upon work created by unheralded “composers.”
Another way Tricks is like a concert is that it features a lot of music composed and performed (largely) by John Lang. I enjoy the creative process that we go through together to bring a piece of magic to life. I choreograph the magic, and from there, John composes “on demand” – adding yet another dimension or layer to the look and feel of the show. So, when I wanted a piece that sounded like a Nelson Riddle arrangement of a tune performed by Count Basie for Sinatra at the Sands circa 1963 – he delivered. John Lang is a real magician!
So come and see (and hear) for yourself this December.
– David Ben
David Ben, photo: Cylla von Tiedemann.
Like money in the pocket of an old jacket. That’s what Tricks is all about.
For many, I am often the first magician that they have met in person. Even though magicians have been around for hundreds of years, and can be seen—thanks to YouTube and reality television—more frequently and by more people than at anytime in the history of the craft, few people have actually met or seen a magician up close and in person.
After discovering that performing magic is what I do, the usual follow up question is: “What kind of tricks do you perform?” And then, before I can respond with “the usual fare – sawing people in half and making them float”, they say, “Oh, should I have said illusions rather than tricks?” as if the word “tricks” was somehow pejorative.
I always assure them that the word “tricks” is just fine.
So why do we need tricks and why do I perform them?
The answer, at least to the first question, came to me in a piece Luc Sante wrote for the New York Times Sunday Magazine in 2001 in an issue devoted to “secrets”. (For me, “secrets” is part and parcel of “tricks”.) There, Sante wrote,
“People need secrets because they need the assurance that there is something left to discover, that they have not exhausted the limits of the environment, that a prize might lie in wait like money in the pocket of an old jacket, that the existence of things beyond their ken might propose a corollary that their own minds contain unsuspected corridors. People need uncertainty and security. It’s not that secrets make them feel small but that they make the world seem bigger—a major necessity these days, when sensations need to be extreme to register at all.”
As for the second question, it is as simple as the first; for the love of it.
– David Ben
Tricks is part of Soulpepper’s Family Festival and is onstage at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts from December 5 – January 3. Click Here to buy tickets.
David Ben, photo: David Linsell