Well Said: Simon Aronson on Methods

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In his latest newsletter (Jan-Feb 2020), Michael Close has just reissued a wonderful interview from 2012 with the late great Simon Aronson and his wife and partner, Ginny. It runs over 19 (!) pages and thus covers a lot of ground—their becoming, their two-person mindreading act, mem deck work, and much more, plus a fine card revelation. I really enjoyed reading it. Highly recommended!

Here are just a few excerpts of Aronson’s thinking which I find worthwhile pondering over for any creator and performer of magic:

On deceptive magic:

I make the assumption that my spectators are thinking people and that they know a lot. Not necessarily that they know a lot about magic, but that they are observant and rational. I don’t have absolutist principles about the way I try to create things, but certainly one guideline that I’ve always used is that whatever the method is, it ought to be counterintuitive. Whatever first thought people might normally have about a possible method, then the actual method ought not follow that same direction.

On combining methods:

I love to combine methods. Sometimes, by accident, people will fall onto the method. But if you have several things going on – a little bit of sleight of hand, a little bit of mathematics, a little bit of a stack, a bit of subtlety, some misdirection – then even if they get one part of it, it’s not enough to discover the whole method.

On complex methods and effects:

I don’t mind complex methods as long as they don’t result in complex effects. It’s like the duck that looks so serene gliding across the water; but under the surface he’s paddling like crazy. My feeling is that magic should be that way.

On fooling scientists:

I think that scientists and engineers have a particular weak spot. They are used to starting their experiments with observable data and work from there. The one thing they are not equipped to do, it’s not in their methodology, is to assume that the data itself has a mind and is trying to fool them.

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