Episode 1 - A Strange Buzz
In which Ben finds himself battling with a buzz, laying the groundwork for the community and contemplating the realisation that starting something isn't as easy as it seems.
This is ‘The M-Word’, a Studio52 production hosted by Ben Earl.
Hello and welcome to ‘The M-Word’. The very first episode. First and last ever first episode of this brand new podcast. I’m very very excited about doing this so let me jump straight in and explain a little bit about the podcast itself, then a bit about about me and then a bit about what I think about magic in general, and that will be it for this very first and introductory episode.
As there is no real community or anything else that exists yet I’m recording this one. There is no one that knows it exists right now, so I'm just talking to myself in space. So, let's first of all deal with what the podcast is about. So, ‘The M-Word’. As I’m sure you can imagine, that word surrounds magic. It is one of those words which is sometimes tricky to use, like the f-word, the c-word, the n-word, and all the other words, they have a certain amount of power and you have to be careful how you use them. Well the ‘M-word’ is one of those words for me. It's one of those words I often have to be careful how I use it, especially when it comes to describing myself or what I do. It’s a tricky word because it doesn't seem to encapsulate everything that I do. Often it can seem slightly reductive.
So, part of this podcast is about talking about all the issues that surround magic, the things that are much, much deeper under the surface, that maybe that superficial word would apply, or would communicate, especially to the outside world. So, we’re going to be talking about all kinds of stuff under the surface: technique, timing, movement, simplicity, design, performance, and often things that maybe you don't hear in other podcasts.
A lot of podcasts - and not just podcasts, but just magic content in general - I often find can be relatively superficial. It’s hard to engage with and part of this podcast I think, for me, is about nurturing a community of people around much deeper ideas and is trying to find ways to talk about stuff in much more interesting ways - much more dynamic ways - a space where we can kind of grow.
Now, this might sound a bit wishy-washy and a bit silly, and so on, on some level, but I'm trying to basically find and create a space where I can grow and I can enjoy and hopefully in that, I think we can do something like that together. So that’s a little bit about this podcast and I think that it will find its feet and grow over time. You know, right now it’s… it’s… it’s just this, you know and starting is such a hard thing to do.
Now, I remember myself and my friend - a very close friend, Danny Buckler – I say close friend – I feel like I’m being rude if I say that, I feel like I should say my best friend, but then I immediately feel 12 if I say my best friend. Do you have best friends when you get older? It’s weird isn’t it? One of my closest friends on the planet is Danny Buckler, him and I went to see a lecture in London, I think it was at Guildford University or something, featuring a guy called Lindsay Kemp - who was a dancer, theorist, a practitioner… whatever - totally bonkers, seemed to have an entire career just slowly turning left in a circle, very mad, but he kind of said a number of things and one or two were brilliant.
One of the things was about starting something and he said that ‘When you start something it’s an incredibly difficult thing to do because there is no momentum. There’s a moment where it doesn't exist and there’s a moment where it does and that little bridge there is a difficult thing to cross’. And once you're in something, this flow, this rhythm, you can stay there and manage that space and stopping something becomes very difficult as well, for a number of reasons, because you have to bring the momentum to a halt and sometimes you don't want to.
So, you know, I always remember that and so I felt about this podcast. That at some stage you have to start it when there's nothing, there is no momentum and so that's what we're doing right here. So I think part of this is about you guys emailing in, which you can do by the way, at ‘The M-Word’ all one thing - email@example.com. If you send anything in on that email address I will see it with my eyes and it will go into my face and it will probably come out in this podcast to some extent, so I want to kind of encourage that community.
So at some stage I felt I just had to start. Start the podcast, start the first episode, start the first 10 seconds - just get going. Oh my God, boy has it been tricky starting. Even today, for example. First of all I had a tricky issue with one of the wires, just with one of the audio cables that had a strange buzz going on, by the time I finished, my coffee was cold so I thought to myself ‘Well, you know, I can’t start with cold coffee’ so I had to go and get a hot coffee, I come back then after that I start recording and after eight minutes in, I realise that is not recording. I realise that I had hit the space bar, I hadn’t actually hit record. Then after that happened, I started recording but a minute into recording a goddamn gigantic pigeon flew straight into my f-cking window. By the way, this pigeon looked identical to Vin Diesel – it smashed straight into my window and scared the living sh-t out of me.
Oh, another thing by the way, there is going to be swearing in this podcast, but only the most choice swear words used professionally… f-ckstick. Just to let you know.
Yeah, so even starting this podcast has been tricky, you know – it’s a difficult thing and I'm hoping in this space that we can collectively create something beautiful. I mean, I have a lot of things I want to talk about on here, a lot of different issues, on magic, individual magicians, concepts, theories - all kinds of bits, but I also want this to be a space we can talk, together. I’m also never going to script anything here. This is gonna be a completely improvised and free-flowing form of monologue/sometimes - sometimes dialogue – depends, but I want to try and create something special. That's really what the M-Word is about. It’s about kind of going deeper, within magic, and looking at all the things that surround that.
Now a little bit about myself, this is kind of a strange one. I have an odd relationship with magic, I’ve been doing it for a long time, over twenty, twenty-five years, I don’t even know anymore and I've always struggled with my position within it, and my identity with it. I'm always looking to expand and grow and do something else and I think a lot of the time I get perceived as a, I don’t know, as distant or an outsider or something. I don't really know but the reason is because I often don't feel comfortable in almost every environment I’m in when it comes to magic. Something it feels off and it took me a number of years to realise that… that's okay. It’s because I enjoy so many different dimensions of magic.
When I think about being a magician, when someone says ‘What are you?’ and I say ‘A magician’ it doesn't feel right. It’s not because I’m embarrassed about the word. I mean I’m incredibly proud to be a part of a tradition which goes back hundreds if not thousands of years and and is one of the oldest art forms on the planet, and I’m incredibly proud to be part of that tradition, but it's just simply that magic doesn't seem to fully describe what I do. It's only a very small element of it.
I'm only really a magician at the moment I show someone an effect or something, and the moment they experience what we would call magic, that moment where they don't know what's going on anymore, I'm only a magician to them, in that moment. It doesn't make me a magician. I don't actually have magic powers. So the word magician and magic is a kind of a metaphor for this thing and it only applies temporarily when I perform. If I am writing or I’m teaching, practising, creating, designing, thinking, researching – am I a magician at that moment? Y’know, maybe not.
So I often find that I I feel like a large portion of what I do are these other creative pursuits that surround magic. So, often I think of myself as a creative artist and a magician, but then it's not even about the pretension of the word ‘artist’ it’s not even about that, I’m not trying to appeal to some higher authority it’s just it’s about self-identity and I think that that these are issues that we can also talk about in this podcast, with people. Now I think there's a lot that surrounds our connection to magic itself, how we identify to those things and what it means for us. And there’s a huge - and I’m probably rambling through elements of that now – but there’s a huge amount that surrounds that subject, and I think it’s really useful and can quite profoundly affect how you think about yourself and the craft and what you do.
So that’s a small amount about how I think, which might seem a little bit nuts but nevertheless it is true. And the other thing that I really want kind of just briefly mention in this first episode is, is magic itself - the state of magic as a community and how we’re kind of engaging with now compared to a previous time where I grew up in magic. So that - the first thing I want to say is that I don't think that magic has ever been in a better place. And now, that doesn't mean that it has no problems, but I don't think it's been in a better place, and I’ll explain why.
When I grew up, magic was incredibly difficult to find information, incredibly difficult to source good teachers or good material. I had to get on a train for several hours, go all the way into London, to go to magic shop and get a book or look at something that hopefully had the answer to something that I didn't know, then travel all the way back and it was very difficult to find anything. There was just nothing around, and then you’d have to spend six months, just hopefully getting a lot from this book until the next convention was on and hopefully at that convention you could bump into someone who might inspire you. It was just such a laborious process, but that said, there was some real benefits of that process because you were forced to think and you're forced to create, and you’re forced to imagine, and that was a very good thing.
In the modern world, now, there’s so much choice, so much access that we can basically find anything we want as soon as we want. And I understand that’s where we’re going and that it has major benefits but it also has some real problems. I think that over time we will work out how to navigate the kind of endless choices that we are, we are presented with, I don’t think’s it’s a bad thing at all, I just think over time we will work out how to manage the resources that we currently have more effectively for us.
Currently, I think we’re in a state of of exploration, of experimentation with it and it’s the reason why I think that magic has never been in a better place because it has so much potential to grow and, as I said, there can be problems but it has so much potential to go in all these different directions. So you know… and part of of me doing this podcast now is about entering the space and finding what we can do, finding what we can do in that space together and that - I find really interesting, especially if you look at the community of magicians that exist out there, there are so many reasons that people come into magic, y’know.
Some people look at it as a chance to shine, you know, the chance to kind of perform. For other people it’s a means of earning a living, y’know, rather than working for some other guy’s dream and smashing your head against a keyboard under some fluorescent lights. Maybe you want to go out there and - you know - perform magic and effects for people and bring smiles to their faces. Maybe that’s what you want to do. Maybe there are people out there that just love the hobby of it, the exploration of these techniques and these pieces of timing. There are people that love the history. There are all these different reasons that people come into magic and yet others come in, in order to maybe find community. Find meaning in their lives. Maybe cope with some form of trauma - as a coping mechanism for something else. That happens, 100%, and there are thousands of reasons that the people come to magic, and then once they’re in magic they find their own unique networks. They find their own means of exploring material.
And so we have an incredibly diverse community when it comes to ideas, when it comes to different journeys and stories as to why people have connected with the craft. I think that, with that in mind, we have an amazing opportunity to explore much much deeper ideas, much more subtle and nuanced ideas, that I have seen bubbling under the surface of magic for the last twenty to twenty five years and I very rarely see expressed.
Y’know, I mean, look, there are loads of other magic podcasts. There are loads of other things on YouTube and online, in books and there’s a million ways that you can engage with magic now and I don't see a problem with any of them really. I think all of them are there for you to explore and experiment with, but really what I'm trying to do is create something that I can't see. I’m trying to create a way of engaging with magic, that I would want to have engaged with in magic when I was younger, and so hopefully we can kind of build that process over time.
So yeah, I mean that's kind of all I can really say at the moment about that process. One of the main things is, look it’s gonna come down to you guys. I think that by you sharing and talking about this podcast, it will massively help us grow and and take this into a new space. I don't want to use this for a any particular reason right now. Apart from this idea of growing and creating something special. And it’s going to be hard to know exactly what direction it's going and I find it incredibly exciting.
So you know, take screenshots of the the image right now, share it on your social media, tell people you’re listening to ‘The M-Word’, spread it around as much as you possibly can. Contact us at studio52magic.com, on our social media feeds – Instagram, Facebook, all that stuff or you can email direct at firstname.lastname@example.org and again I will be reading that, looking at that and I’ll allow it to inform the podcast.
So, yeah I mean, gosh, I've now started. This is, this is it. I don't think we'll even get remotely close to where I want this podcast to be until we’re probably 30, 40, 50 - I don’t know, however many episodes in. I'm sure we’ll look back to this very first episode and y’know I’ll think it’s naïve, but I want to get there and I think that it’ll be amazing for us to be able to get together and build something special. So thank you so much for listening and uh… yeah, that’s it, please check in again. Thank you.
This was a Studio52 production. For more information visit studio52magic.com or find us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @studio52magic.