Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Magic On YouTube

I love performing magic. I got bit with the bug when I was a little kid watching a show called Square One TV where they had a segment called Backstage with Blackstone. Harry Blackstone Jr, a very well respected magician, would perform a trick and then teach how it was done demonstrating some mathematics principle. In the intervening years, I kept an interest in magic. I will admit, life took some major turns and performing magic was placed on the back burner for a long time. But my interest never fully went away.

Recently, I found a website called Ellusionist, and in looking at some of their stuff, my interest in magic was re-kindled. In looking through their promotional materials and tutorials, I found I enjoyed the videos of one particular magician, Chris Ramsay. I've watched a great many of his videos, both vlogs and tutorials. He seems like a really cool guy, and I find his style is very effective AND entertaining.

Last night, I watched a video he posted where he went on a bit of a rant about the exposing of magic on YouTube. Apparently, he had gotten some negative feedback from people about putting magic tutorials online. I've linked to the video, so you can watch it yourself. In short, my reaction is I completely agree with Mr. Ramsay.

To get a bit more in depth, I find it hilarious that there are people out there who think the instruction of magic should be relegated to just in person or by reading tricks in books.

There was a time when people thought books were the death of human knowledge. In fact, one of the most respected philosophers of ALL TIME, Socrates, was a huge hater of books. So much so, that he never wrote anything down. It's only because of one of his students, Plato, that we even KNOW about him.

In a BBC/Discovery Channel special on the history of magic, I learned that magicians were thought to be in league with the devil (and were to be killed as such), until someone wrote the first book on how to perform magic illusions.

Think about that for a moment. The very thing that was thought of as the death of knowledge, culture, and art became a life saving instrument. Teaching magic LITERALLY saved people's lives.

Since that first book was written, humanity has learned so much about how to effectively teach stuff to people. The two biggest things is that most people learn by SEEING and people learn best in small chunks. This makes YouTube videos the PERFECT medium to teach magic. And so, after thousands of years of technological advancement, we finally have what is arguably the BEST way to instruct people how to perform magic properly in both method AND showmanship, and we're not supposed to use it? Are you kidding me?

However, YouTube is a double edged sword. The best thing about YouTube is the sheer amount of content. Magic tutorials are buried under cat videos, celebrity gossip videos, movie trailers, and so much more. Someone would have to be dedicated enough to actually hunt down magic tutorials to find them. So, the precious secrecy of the art is protected under a massive amount of noise.

And yet, the very noise that protects the secrecy of magic is also a problem. Because even if you limit your YouTube searches to just "magic tutorials", there is still a MASSIVE amount of content. And believe me when I tell you, not all of it is quality stuff.  

This is another point where I completely agree with Mr. Ramsay's comments. The "powers that be" in the magic industry need to present quality, properly credited content on YouTube. This will allow for the proper accreditation of techniques and appropriate financial compensation for the innovators of the industry. And, quality content will also prevent a degradation of quality in performances, which helps preserve the art form.

Speaking of preservation, any expert will tell you, part of maintaining any art is keeping the history of that art intact and including it as part of whatever updated, modern learning medium is being used. Keeping the historical significance of any art form at the forefront of any new learning is vital to said art form's preservation.

There is no way to prevent people from posting magic tutorials.Be it good or bad, people are going to do it. But if there are a series of quality postings, with proper crediting, and linking to further information (either other videos, eBooks, a more in-depth website, or print books), you can SIMULTANEOUSLY preserve the art form AND make strides to evolve the industry to appeal to an entire new generation of audience members, magic enthusiasts, and yes, future magicians.

What do you think, my dear readers? Should magic only be taught in books or is YouTube a viable option for learning this art? Sound off in the comments below!

1 comment:

  1. Books are great but often leave out the best parts according to one's own needs. Videos are okay but YouTube is far greater for research and learning. YouTube is not limited in time, place or era.

    Whether in book, video or YouTube, the preservation of the art form must continue. After all, even the most honored of all Wizards still has to keep his skills tuned at the same time gain knowledge to strive forward.