The Road to The Road to Riffsville

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road to riffsvilleI had not planned on writing The Road to Riffsville. I was spurred to action by the confluence of three events, which I’d like to share with you now.

Because I am an old father, when Ava came into my life I made the decision to limit my time away from home. This meant limiting my lecture, convention, and performing appearances. I wanted to be a stay-at-home dad. Fortunately, my work as a magazine editor allowed me to do that.

Because I wasn’t performing often, I had less contact with the routines I used to perform on a daily basis. This, as it turns out, is a good thing. When routines become second nature, it is too easy to overlook flaws in their construction. (This is the mental equivalent of blinking when you execute a sleight.) Consequently, when I now watch videos of my earlier performances, it is as if my blinders have been removed; all sorts of problems jump out at me. Previously, I had ignored them; now I needed to fix them. 

In December of 2017 and January of 2018, I completed work on The Paradigm Shift Volumes One and Two. One chapter in Volume One, “Repose, Chaos, and Action,” came from my dissatisfaction with the way most magicians prepare for a classic force. I offered several solutions to this problem, and in doing so I clarified in my own mind the principles presented in the chapter. My purpose was to explain the ideas to my readers, but I was the greatest beneficiary of that process. The intelligent incorporation of the principles of repose, chaos, and action is one of most powerful tools available to conjurers.

Shortly after the publication of The Paradigm Shift ebooks, Lisa and I began work updating Closely Guarded Secrets. The memdeck routine, The Luckiest Cards in Las Vegas, caught my eye; I noticed procedures that, when examined under the guiding principles of repose, chaos, and action, were no longer optimal. 

This led me back to my original writings on the memorized deck, which I published in Workers 5 in 1996. I discovered, to my dismay, that several ideas I put forth were incorrect, misleading, or sub-optimal. I needed to correct these errors.

I’m not going to beat myself up over this; our beliefs are based on the information we have at the time. There was a time when people believed the sun revolved around the earth – a belief supported by the visual information of the sun traveling through the sky once each day and the sensation that the earth did not move. With advancements in science and technology, this belief was upended. An important aspect of a scientific approach to the world is that you change your mind when presented with new information. (This is one way science differs from religion.)

I have information in 2018 that I did not have in 1990 when I began working with the memorized deck. This information consists of better techniques and clearly defined principles. Using this information, I reexamined my approach to memdeck magic and I attempted to fix the problems I saw. The Road to Riffsville contains what I discovered.

In particular, this ebook focuses on what I dubbed “Jazzin” in Workers 5. I coined this term because I stated that “improvisation” with a memdeck is like jazz improvisation. Unfortunately, this is incorrect. To equate the two things is a misleading and inaccurate analogy, and I fear it misled many readers. I have a better way of explaining it now.

The Road to Riffsville contains seven main chapters that address all aspects of one particular memdeck routine: several spectators each name a card and the magician reveals those cards in an amazing way. My demonstrations of this type of routine in the 1990s inspired many magicians to master a memorized deck.

The material in The Road to Riffsville is new, with an approach to the subject I have not seen before. It is not for the memdeck neophyte; however, if you have memorized a stack and you have some ability with estimation, you will find within its 28,000 words a substantial amount of valuable information.

As with our other ebook publications, we have combined text, photos, and video to provide unparalleled instruction.

The Road to Riffsville is coming your way very soon.

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  • Michael Close
Comments 3
  • gary para
    gary para

    Just get it. You need this.

  • Michael Close
    Michael Close

    In my music school experience, many instrumentalists take music theory because they have to, not because they want to. An E-flat half-diminished chord is relatively esoteric, and certainly not as easy to recall as a Bb major triad or a G7 chord. The notes are Eb, Gb, Bbb (or A natural), Db.

    Hope that helps.

    I think I’ve explained exactly what goes on in memdeck “improvisation” much more clearly in the new ebook.

  • Randy Naviaux
    Randy Naviaux

    Can’t wait! I do have a question about a line out of CGS. (Pg 37) “Look at bar 90. Does anyone have a note that doesn’t fit with an E flat half-dminished chord?” There was notable silence from the string section.

    Why is the silence “notable”? (FYI, I’ve just recently started to learn to play the piano so am completely ignorant of what the question really means and what the proper answer should be.)

    As I have worked on mem-deck and started to learn piano I’ve thought back to your comments in the worker series as well as CGS. Am interested to read your latest thoughts on the topic as I couldn’t really wrap my head around the idea of improvising with a deck of cards.

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