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Magic (illusion)

Magic or conjuring is a feat of illusion that naive observers would consider to arise from supernatural powers. The practitioners of this are called magicians or illusionists.

One of the meanings of magic refers to the use of trickery to perform feats that seem to defy conventional explanation. Almost all types of trickery are used in magic, including feats of physical dexterity, specially constructed props[?] and mathematical results.

Magic is usually performed before an audience which is ignorant of the type of trick being used. The purpose of a magic trick is to amuse; the audience is generally aware that the magic is performed using trickery, and derives enjoyment from having the magician use cunning to deceive them. Usually, magicians will refuse to reveal their methods to the audience. The reasons for these include:

  • Exposure obviously "kills" magic as an artform and transforms it into mere intellectual puzzles or riddles. Once the secret of a trick is revealed to a person, he or she can no longer fully enjoy subsequent performances of the trick.
  • Keeping the secrets obviously also provides a financial incentive for magicians who perform for money.

Membership in professional magicians' organizations often requires an oath not to reveal the secrets of magic to non-magicians. This is known as the "Magician's Oath". However, it is considered permissible to reveal secrets to individuals who are determined to learn magic tricks and become magicians. Thus, the secrets to many common tricks are available to the public through numerous books and magazines devoted to magic.

Magic performances fall into three broad genres:

  • Close-up magic, which is performed with the audience close to the magician, possibly in physical contact. It usually makes use of everyday items as props, such as cards and coins. Exponents of close-up magic include Paul Zenon.
  • Parlor magic, which is performed for small groups of people slightly separated from the magician. This type of magic often makes use of portable props specially designed for performing magic.
  • Stage magic, which is performed for large audiences, typically within an auditorium. This type of magic is distinguished by elaborate, large-scale props. The most famous magicians in the world, such as David Copperfield[?], Siegfried and Roy[?], and Penn and Teller[?], are best known for their ability in stage-magic.

The principle underlying almost all magic tricks is misdirection, which is the act of drawing to audience's attention to one location while, in another location, the magician performs a crucial manipulation undetected. For example, during a simple coin trick a magician might pretend to transfer a coin from his left hand to his right, while actually keeping the coin in the left. In order to create misdirection, the fingers of the right hand will appear to close over the coin, and the fist is prominently displayed to the audience; the left hand hangs loosely, as though it were empty.

Many different techniques are used to create misdirection, and all require great amounts of practice to perfect. One technique is the use of natural-looking and confident movements, which the magician uses to disguise any surreptitious manipulations (as in the previously described coin trick.) Another technique is the use of a confident flow of chatter from the magician, known as "patter." Patter may take the form of a story, or it may simply be the magician (selectively) narrating the actions being performed. Either way, it directs the attention of the audience wherever the magician wishes.

Apart from misdirection, some magic tricks can be classified by the type of technique used. For example, card magic[?] includes a set of standard techniques for pretending to shuffle a set of cards, concealing cards in the hand (referred to as "palming"), and so forth; coin magic[?] has a similar set of techniques for hiding and transferring coins. However, the majority of magic tricks cannot be classified in this way, and are sometimes referred to as "general magic."

See also: List of magicians, Harry Blackstone[?], David Blaine, Lance Burton[?], Tommy Cooper, Harry Houdini, James Randi, Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, Erdnase

Abracadabra, presto, shill

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