TUESDAY, January 28, 2020
Big magic is sawing a lady in half, or doing any number of impressive stage tricks that are illusions. But for those illusions normally we never get to find out how the magicians pull them off, and the often necessitate a lot of expensive props, assistants and of course elaborate tricks. As I watch this elaborate illusions I wonder how impressive they would be if we knew how they are done, and wouldn’t it be ruined afterward?
It’s one thing to be tricked. It is something very different to be shown exactly how something is done and still not be able to see it. In some cases “sleight of hand” artists like Tony Slydini show us exactly what they are doing, in slow motion, then repeat the tricks at full speed and it’s still impossible to see it. I can watch these tricks again and again, because for me it’s not about the trick. It’s about the masterful way it is done.
Which is more impressive?
For me “small magic” is more impressive because it does not depend on props. It’s hand speed, misdirection and presentation. It’s amazingly impressive to me to see what a magician is doing and how he is doing it and yet still not be able to see it happen. Done in this way it is also very honest. There are no secrets, no tricks. It’s just a matter of doing something small better than anyone else. It’s all about quality. It’s so honest.
He was known as the best of the guys who did “small magic”, and this is one of the most impressive things I’ve seen. Other magicians were in awe of him and studied with him whenever possible. He was the “magician’s magician”. Others were more famous with the public, but none more than Tony with fellow illusionists.
As you watch him you know exactly what he is doing. He shows everybody. Everyone in the audience sees it, and from that angle we see it too. But we know that from the angle of the man watching him do the trick, it’s all invisible. It’s a trick, yet if you are sitting in that chair, even if he shows you what he’s doing, you will still never see it. That’s the magic, the “small magic”. We know the trick. He shows us. He is so elegant, so smooth, so effortless, and only using paper!
But what does this have to with playing the piano?
The answer is that we are illusionists too. Unlike the great Tony Slydini, we are not (for the most part) trying to fool people, but we have to be very careful not to fool ourselves. We can’t be like the man in the chair who does not have a clue as to what is really happening, but like the audience who sees what is really happening. We have to learn to use only our ears to judge whether or not we are getting the sound we want. Then we have to experiment endlessly to see if there is a better way to do it – a way that is easier, more effortless, more economical in terms of movement.