Jonah is joined by Manuel Llaser for episode 151 to discuss emotion in magic, learning from teachers, and analyzing your approach to magic. Manuel is an Argentinian magician who developed his deep appreciation for magic under the guidance of Juan Tamariz.
Manuel comes from a family of artists. His uncle, Alan Marchese, started him on the path of magic when he was five years old. Under his mentor, Manuel developed a deep love for the craft. In 1992, Manuel met Juan Tamariz and they immediately connected. In 1998, Juan invited Manuel to come work with him. Leaving law school, Manuel went to help Juan with writing and archiving his ideas.
Teachers and Mentors
With his background in Eastern philosophy, Manuel has always understood that to truly learn and develop in a craft, you need to learn from a teacher or guru. In the East, knowledge being passed from the teacher to the student is a normal tradition. Not only does it help one improve their skills, but it helps the student develop humility, listening and analytical skills, and a sense of what they actually want to accomplish within their chosen craft. A teacher, Manuel emphasizes, is meant to guide you through the basic principles and how to apply them.
Nowadays, there is a tendency of people telling you to branch out and follow your own path to understand the craft. While it is important to stay true to you, Manuel says, you need to be aware of the fundamentals before you can actually go deeper into the world of magic. By learning the theories under his mentors, he was able to decide which areas were and weren’t for him, and why he was making these decisions.
Manuel emphasizes how important it is to pay respect to the people in the past and to appreciate the magicians who are teaching you. By simply learning the latest method for an effect, you are losing out on the deeper theory behind why and how that effect was created.
Performing Around the World
During his time performing in different countries, Manuel has been able to develop his approach to communicating through magic. In Spain, Manuel had the best experience as people had been regularly exposed to magic and had an understanding of what magic can be. Similarly, Manuel enjoyed performing in India as they were like children experiencing magic. There were times where he was performing for thousands of people at one time.
Contrasting this experience was his time in Malaysia. There was no community of magicians there and the public had very limited knowledge of magic – Criss Angel, Copperfield and Derren Brown was generally the extent of their exposure. Manuel was also dealing with a language barrier; he suddenly had to rework his approach and the magic he was actually performing. He ended up talking less, fully scripting out his routine rather than improvising, and presenting more visual effects. During his time in Russia, Manuel worked with a translator which resulted in his performance completely being lost. He now had to consider the effects he was performing and how he could take advantage of having a translator. He had to learn to adapt and move outside of his comfort zone to be able to perform strong magic for the audience.
From his travels has come Manuel’s ability to adapt his magic for a small audience who has a minimal understanding of magic to an audience of thousands who don’t share his language.
Spanish vs North American Magic
The Spanish school was born out of a need for change, Manuel explains. There were seven magicians who were on a mission to move magic forward because it had stagnated after Vernon’s death. The younger generation saw it as their responsibility to move magic forward so it can have the shock and impact they desired. They took the torch and went deeper into the study of magic by deeply analyzing the theories behind magic and practice; they looked at the symbolism and the structure; they examined the symbolism behind magic and how magic interacted with cinema and theatre. The Spanish school is primarily an approach to how to study magic from a deeper, critical perspective.
Manuel goes on to highlight that North America has its own schools that take a similar approach, pointing primarily to Vernon and Marlo and how they developed their own different approaches to magic. Manuel goes on to explain that to actually follow a school, you need to look at the references that the school is based on. By studying the cultural moments and theories from these older schools, you can adapt these concepts to a newer generation, pushing magic further.
Emotion is what hooks people to a moment. When we reflect on a memory, we tend to have an emotional reaction. Magic, Manuel explains, is a concert of emotions. By being conscious of what your audience is feeling during any given moment in your performance, you can increase the impact of your overall effect. You have to find a way to create emotion in your audience through the language of magic.
Juan Tamariz has forced Manuel to think about the effect now when approaching magic. The method doesn’t matter as much as the effect, as the effect is where the sense of magic comes from. If you become married to a method, you are potentially preventing yourself from creating a stronger effect for the audience. Manuel recommends training your mind to be attracted to the effect rather than the method.
While he spent many years studying under Tamariz and is a close friend, Manuel explains that he was not a special chosen one, Tamariz was just very kind to associate with him. All of Tamariz’s teachings are available in print; you can experience and understand his teachings through text because his spirit is behind every book.
When you show Tamariz an effect, you have to open your mind to new possibilities to improve the overall effect. Tamariz will ask you about the conditions, potentially forcing you to detach yourself from the method to find a better way to complete the effect.
It is important to learn how to take criticism and to have arguments about why you’re doing what you’re doing. When you are given criticism, you need to analyze what is being said and how it applies to you. Is the mistake you’re making an absolute mistake like everyone can see the move? Then you’re doing it wrong. Are you being critiqued on your approach to the effect? Then it’s relative criticism that you may or may not find use in. You have to be mature enough to understand where the criticism is coming from. In some cases, people will try to place their preferences on you.
Jonah resonated with the idea of being detached from the method, and the concept that magic is a concert of emotion.
Manuel liked the overall idea of living magic as a passion. You have to put your passion into it and see through the point of view of your predecessors. And, the most important part, be happy when you perform.
What do you love about 2019 magic? What do you hate about 2019 magic?
Manuel likes the newest style of magic being on people’s phones. Through one minute clips, people are able to create a sense of magic through another person’s phone. It is getting magic everywhere and opening it up to a wider audience. People are consuming magic content and this is a positive for the future.
Manuel doesn’t like how easy it is to obtain information. All you need to do now is type what you want into YouTube and learn the moves. There is no depth to the magic and people aren’t necessarily appreciating where the effect came from. Manuel believes you need to grow and evolve with the effect, not simply learn it.