Today I want to talk more about Imps, that is, the things we suggest are the impetus for the magic. A lot of theory in this one, but it ends with a pretty dope trick if you stick with it.
This particular post was inspired by an email exchange with Pete McCabe where he wrote, in regards to the Pulp-Fringe Imp:
I’m wondering how much of the effect you can get with just an app that makes sound effects? I give you a deck and do a self-working trick like Gemini Twins. While you are dealing, I play a weird white noise at you that "will program you when to stop." When your friend deals, I switch to a different sound because their brain is on a different wavelength. Whaddaya know, it works.
Not quite as cool as the glowing briefcase. All right — it’s not nearly as cool. But for something I already have with me, that could be very useful.
Try the "White Noise Free” app, go to sounds, and scroll down. The last five are white noise, brown noise, pink noise, blue noise, and violet noise. All different in a way you can clearly hear but not articulate.
While the first spectator is dealing I play white noise. When they stop I turn on brown noise and ask if they want to add one more or take one back. Same with the other person. I would never show the app.
Boy I love the idea that the white noise could somehow control your decision.
Pete's right about a couple things. He's right that making noises on your cell phone isn't nearly as intriguing as a glowing briefcase, but he's also right that white noise can make for an interesting Imp.
As I told Pete, in my email back to him, I used to use white (and other "colored" noise) as a precursor to OOTW. I'd give someone 4 cards. Two red and two black, ask them to mix them up, and then deal them face down into two piles of two. I'd play the white noise. If they separated the reds from the blacks, I'd then continue on to the full OOTW. If they didn't I'd change to brown noise and try again. And I'd change to a different "color" until they got it right. With just four cards, they're going to get it right within a few tries. And once they got it right I'd do the full deck dealing process with that noise playing.
In regards to Gemini Twins, Pete recommends you start by playing each of the “noises” for the spectator while you look at their eyes to see how their pupils respond. When you get what you want (apparently), that’s the color you play for them.
Gemini Twins is one of those tricks that is so straightforward and simple that it makes a great blank canvas for you to paint an "impetus" onto. And I think it's very instructive to play around with these Imps because you begin to realize how much the trick is about that, and not so much about the moment of the cards matching. Yes, that's the point of the trick, but it's not necessarily the thing that stays with people.
And yet, often, it's all we concentrate on.
It's like thinking of a sexual encounter only in terms of the orgasm. Yes, that's kind of the end goal, but it's usually the lead-up to that that is the hottest and most memorable part of the experience.
As it goes with fucking, so it goes with magic: we put our focus on the climax, but the enduring part of it is the seduction. And—as my 2% female readership can attest—that's usually the part guys stumble and bumble their way through because all their focus is on...
An Imp is part of the seduction.
Someone asked in an email what the difference is between an Imp and just "presentation." Am I just making up terminology? No, I'm not. Well... I am just making up terminology, but there is a reason behind it.
If you take an Imp and flesh it out and explain it to the audience, then it can become a presentation.
But not all presentations are Imps. "Do you know the difference between a magician and a gambler?" isn't an imp. It's a presentation (one that suggest you think your spectator might be a moron).
And not all Imps are presentations. Remember, snapping was the first Imp I discussed here. No one would say snapping, or waving a wand, or casting a shadow is really a presentation. The Five Movements is an Imp that might imply a presentation, but if you don't spell it out for people it remains an Imp.
That brings me to an important point. There are three ways you can introduce an Imp into your effect: explicitly, implicitly, and arbitrarily.
Let's take them in reverse order.
Let's go back to the concept of using white noise. Here's what you shouldn't do. "I'm going to play white noise and it's going to influence you to match up the cards." This is a meaningless statement. It's as meaningless as saying, "I'm going to eat a cheese sandwich and it's going to influence you to match up the cards."
Coming out and baldly stating some arbitrary connection between the two things is just going to get rejected as obvious horseshit. People have a natural resistance to arbitrariness. So you don't want the connection between the impetus and the effect to come off that way.
Instead of handling an Imp arbitrarily, you need to handle it implicitly or explicitly.
You play the white noise. You look in their eyes. You switch to another color noise and examine their eyes. Then you switch again. Satisfied, you have them deal out the cards and stop twice burying face-up cards in the deck each time. At the end, the cards they stopped at match the cards they put in the deck.
"What was that noise thing about?" they ask.
"Oh nothing. That's just... it's nothing. Are you hungry? We should get a pizza."
When you say, "This white noise is going to control your decisions." You're just giving them something to reject as totally baseless. But if you just imply the white noise is important (by paying attention to it for a moment), and then perhaps even deny that it is later on, you can get them to strengthen the link in their head between the impetus and the effect.
Remember what I said above: people have a natural resistance to arbitrariness. In this case we are going to harness that for are own purposes. When you don't justify the purpose of (in this case) the white noise, their aversion to the arbitrary will push them the direction you want them to go. "Well, he didn't just play that noise for no reason. So there must be some connection between that and the effect. But what could that be?" You're getting them to force the issue. Now, ultimately they may come to the conclusion that it's all part of the charade. That's fine. But at least you get them to consider it in a way they wouldn't if you were the one pushing the connection.
The final way to handle an Imp is explicitly. That is, you spell out the connection between what you're doing and what happens. An explicit imp is an understandable story of cause and effect.
"I'm going to play white noise and you'll deal to the cards I choose," is not an understandable story. How does one thing cause the other? You need to add some elements and give your spectator some path to follow.
It doesn't necessarily need to be believable. It just needs to be understandable. In fact, I'll break this down even further. You can have Believable Explicit Imps and Fantastical Explicit Imps.
Fantastical Explicit Imp - "This box contains stuff that belonged to my grandfather. This record was his favorite. Sometimes when I play it weird things happen." You play the record and one of the items you dumped from the box—let's say, a bottle cap—flies across the table.
The Imp is playing the record. It's an Explicit Imp because you're saying playing the record will cause some phenomenon to happen. It's a Fantastical Explicit Imp because you're dealing with a cause and effect that is profoundly unbelievable. But even though it's still a mysterious/weird cause and effect, it's one that's easy to understand. It's not arbitrary. You play your grandfather's favorite record and his spirit or energy causes something else of his to move. That "story" makes sense.
Believable Explicit Imp - These are things like hypnosis, influence, and reading body language cues. An effect that uses a BEI can still have a climax that feels magical and unreal, it's just that the connection between the impetus and the effect isn't inherently unbelievable.
I like both these styles. FEIs are like little immersive Twilight Zone moments. BEIs are like a vignette from Mr. Wizard but with an amped up ending.
I'll leave you with this.
The effect is Gemini Twins.
White noise is the Imp.
"Believable Explicit" is the style of Imp.
The effect is...
Tiki and Ronde
You spread a deck of cards face up on the table.
"Have you heard of black noise?" you ask.
"Let me find some on youtube." You open your laptop and start playing something. Your screen is turned away from your spectator. It sounds like static-y fuzz.
"You've heard of white noise, right? And you may have heard of other variations of it, like brown noise or pink noise. They're supposed to have different effects on you in regards to things like relaxation and concentration."
"Well, black noise is this relatively new thing they've discovered. I don't know what it is. Like a new wavelength or something? And it's supposed to affect areas of the brain in regards to perception and suggestibility. Can we try something weird?"
You scoop up the deck and remove the jokers from the bottom. Your spectator deals through the deck, stopping twice whenever she wants to place the jokers face-up into the deck. When she's done you ask her to hold onto the deck.
"That was a free choice? Where you put the jokers, I mean. You just went off instinct?"
"And when I had the deck spread face-up on the table when we started, you didn't, like, consciously memorize the order or anything like that, right?"
"Okay... let's see what happened," you say.
You tell her to turn the laptop towards herself.
She does and she finds that it's not precisely what she thought. It's not a single youtube video. It's actually a site that is playing two videos simultaneously. The one labelled "Black Noise" is playing loudly. The volume on the other one is turned down very low. The title on that video is, "Card Station, Pinedale, Wyoming 5/8/73."
"Have you heard of Card Stations?" you ask. "So, in like the late 60s and early 70s there was this thing where people would find these small radio towers in really remote areas of the U.S. and they were broadcasting these strange messages on a loop. And they were called Card Stations because they were broadcasting what sounded like instructions for card games or something like that. It might say something like, 'Discard the Ace of Spade and keep the Queen of Hearts.' And it would just say that message over and over."
"At first they thought it was some Soviet spy thing. Like the cards were coded messages or something. But no one could ever explain how these things could had popped up all over and then gone on undetected for years. In one case a broadcast was first heard in the mid 60s, but the tower broadcasting it wasn't located for another 25 years. It's really strange stuff. I think eventually the government decided it was some weird, elaborate hoax. Or, at least, that was what they were willing to say on the record. Some people, of course, said it was some kind of government testing or even aliens I have no clue what it was."
"But that black noise we were listening to was actually first identified in the gaps of one of the recordings made of the Card Stations, so people have been playing around with the idea that they're connected and a lot of people have tried experiments like this and have had some weird results."
"Turn down the black noise and turn up the audio on the card station video."
She does and you both hear some garbled audio. You listen a few times and figure out it says, "Place the first joker next to the nine of hearts. Place the second joker next to the two of spades."
"Let's see," you say. You have her spread the cards face down on the table. You slide out the face-up jokers and the cards adjacent to them.
"Place the first joker next to the nine of hearts," the strange voice sputters. You turn over the first card, it's the nine of hearts.
"Place the second joker next to the two of spades," the recording says. You turn over the second card, it's the two of spades.
You can find the site with the two videos playing simultaneously here. You may want to mute your computer until you see that both are playing in case the Card Stations video starts first.
I've obviously made the backstory on this more byzantine than necessary. You could make it just about the black noise and have the other video be some normal testing audio without the weird Card Stations back story. I just like it if the whole thing has a stranger origin than being "just" about the white (black) noise. You want something more "normal" go make it yourself, you lazy bitch.
Let's see... I've offered some theory, threw in some ejaculation-related gifs, wrote up a fun trick, and insulted my readers. It's another classic Jerx post. See you next week.