thoughts on magic and music

I can play a rusty ‘happy birthday’ on the guitar now. It’s fairly simple, nothing too complicated. Holding the guitar and playing a few notes, I can already begin to feel a similarity to when I started with magic. Get a deck of cards, tune it, then practise. This is the same with a guitar.

It takes time, you develop muscle memory and you just go. You forget all the details about finger positioning and think about other things, but when you start, it’s the details of the technique that you concentrate on. There’s always this urge to learn more and more, when really you only need to get down (perfect?) a few basic moves. Again, this applied to both magic and music.

Persistence, it takes persistence. Lots of it. There’s no other way around it, there is no instant gratification. Anyone can pluck a string and spread a deck, but not everyone can do it in a smooth and beautiful fashion, that takes time.

It’s interesting how there are similarities in practising, but differences in the performances and the reactions. I feel that music has the ability to go/last beyond the author/creator, more so than magic. Also the creators of magic are often looking for a shock value, and the shock value lasts that one time. On the other hand, with music and songs, you can hear them over and over to get that effect. With most magic it’s a one time thing, but it need not be. Often you’ll hear magicians talking about how their trick will fool people. If you want to fool people, you probably will, but so what? Instead magic effects (not tricks), like music, should be about sharing something beautiful. So instead of creating magic with the idea of fooling someone, magic ought to be created on the basis of beauty and rhythm. Which is why I love reading essays about magic by Ascanio and Juan Tamariz.

Most magicians don’t create their own effects, instead they learn what other magicians have done. This is fine, I have no issues with this. Often you will end up putting something of yourself into the effect, making it yours in ways. I suppose this is what good singers do with songs as well. I haven’t devised many magic routines of my own, just a few. There’s only one that I do on a regular basis. That routine came about when I was doing flourishes on the RT and a few people asked me to do some magic for them. I had no idea what I was going to do, even as I asked them to pick a card. I just went with the flow, piecing bits of magic together to arrive at an actual routine. I like how that worked out. Like musicians, magicians also have jam sessions.

Anyway, it seems like I’ll be spending quite a bit of time with the guitar. Also, watch this space for more happy birthday related material (bollywood style). =P

getting back in the groove

I spent most of last night investigating setup and environments for web development in Rails (ruby) and Django (python). I like Ruby as a language, I like how it flows. I still need to delve further into Python, primarily because it’s named after the Monthy Python series. That is enough for it to deserve my attention.

I also kept switching between Windows and Linux environments. I’d prefer to work in Windows because… that’s my main operating system on the laptop right now (though some will argue why I have it in such a state). I’m running VMWare that allows me to run Linux inside Windows, so it’s still good. I’ll start using meebo for browser based instant messaging. The issue with Windows is that I’d want an IDE to work with. With Linux, I’m comfortable with the command line and Vim. So it’s works out smoother.

I think I’ll just go with Windows being the main OS, a Linux virtual machine, and development in Linux. It’s likely that any production environment will be Linux, so it only makes sense.

I haven’t done any heaving programming in my free time in a long time, and I need to get back to it. I’m high on certain notions, that I’d better get into motion, before the the driving passion dies down (yes, I tried to make this sentence as cheesy as possible).

But in either case, this is good.

a bullet, a name

i just knew something bad would happen the moment my eyes spotted that gun. it had a certain shine, a certain reflectiveness; a fingerprint free gun, is it new or did someone actually take the time to clean it? it just lay there, almost at peace with itself, but causing me distress. i wasn’t there for a shoot out, i was unarmed. i could feel my heart beat against my rib cage. i started to count each beat, attempting to escape the reality of that moment.

i counted two. at least two bullets, i could only see two. the rest, if any, hidden from my view. i wonder if the gun had a safety, and if the owner carried a silencer. for some reason i was more scared by the thought of the gun going off by accident rather than by intent, and more scared of the sound the gun would make rather than the damage it would do.

do bullets have names on them? does a bullet have my name on it? neither of those two did, i’m still here. they were meant for someone else, or maybe just the thin air. but that doesn’t change that moment, it doesn’t change that fear. i can’t help but wonder, with all the ways one can die, that there is a bullet out there with my name on it.

galloping musicians

why not just throw a dagger at me?
as i hold my wound
and try and pull out this dagger
it hurts
the pain hurts
and not just where the dagger hit
the pain travels, like horses galloping on my veins
this pain it hurts
i can feel each beat
of the horseshoes
leaving marks
but i could make music with those beats
the rhythm, they move with rhythm
they aren’t horses, they’re musicians

mann hota hai

Listen to the song before reading on any further:

Youtube video:

I set “mann hota hai” as my status on the instant messaging clients. Apparently (from the responses I got to this) the words “hota hai” are forever attached to “kuch kuch” (roll eyes… sigh.). From those who actually heard the song, a common response was “he sounds like a woman broke his heart”.

My analysis of the songs will be based on the words and the connections within the song, disconnected from any particular kuchkuchness and romantic connections.

First of all, I like the tone of the song. The piano and the piano pauses, the music is not constantly playing. So in some moments all you get is the singing sound. I like how that works out. I like how the singing does not drown in the music.

Now for the lyrics… the words:

khawaboon se… khelne ko
mann hota hai… mann hota hai

I find it interesting that he uses the word “khelne”… “to play”. What does it mean to play with a dream?

haathon se… chunay ko
mann hota hai… mann hota hai

Interesting still. I connect these lines to the dream. So then what does it mean to touch a dream?

To play with and touch a dream… to make it real?

kisi ki naa pe roo dun to…
khilonay toot jaye to…
koi jab mugh se puchay…
kyun rota hai…?
mann hota hai… mann hota hai

There’s so much going on in these words. First, the rejection or disapproval, “kisi ki naa”. Then, the tears.
“khilonay” is also an interesting choice, a toy is something you play with and can touch. The broken toy is a shattered dream. I really like how that connects with the last two bits of the song.

Then the question and response. “kyun rota hai?” and “mann hota hai”. I don’t know if that makes grammatical sense. I know that “mann chahta hai” in the same way that “dil chahta hai”, but how does “mann hota hai”. I know what it means and the implications, yes. But the words are… different.

So back to the question and response. “kyon rota hai?”… “why do you cry?”. Because “mann hota hai”. Now, in the song “mann hota hai” might not be designed as a response to the question, but for me it is. Because “mann hota hai” is the reason there are tears. But here’s the rub, the response to the question itself should cause more tears because it is the reason in the first place. So it’s circular, the tears are circular (they often are).

kabhi sardi ki raatoon mein…
koi khirki jo kholun to…
liye muskaan chehre pe…
koi hota hai…
mann hota hai… mann hota hai…

The obvious conclusion to make here is that he misses the “muskaan” of some other person. But I find it interesting that a window is used here. Because a window also shows you your reflection. Could it be that he’s remembering a time when he used to smile himself? And wishes that moment was back?

But a window also represents communication, because opening a window is a gateway to the outside world (or whichever world you want it to be). Sure, you have to squeeze through it, but it’s still a path, it’s still a way.

But why would you open a window in cold weather? Wouldn’t it make more sense to leave the window closed to retain the heat? Or does he want the cold winds? The need to cool down, the longing for a smile. Interesting.

Needless to say, I find this song interesting.

phir koi jaadu hai

Interesting morning today.

At McCowan RT station I spotted an old friend who I haven’t seen for over a year, and the last time I saw him was on the subway as well. We were both entering the RT at the same time, I paused and motioned to let him in first, he thanked me, but didn’t recognize me. So I followed him and sat across him, “Hello Joshua!”.

He gave me this, “you can’t be Adnan, wait you are Adnan!” look. Then he did say out loud, “Your hair, look at your hair, it’s never been this long! the beard I’m used to, but the hair!”. But it was neat, getting to catch up with him, we went through high school and university together (different programs in university though).

“I see you’re still wearing your iron ring”, he tells me. Actually, I lost my original iron ring while bowling a year ago. It just flew off  during a release and we couldn’t find it. So only just last Friday did I go to the Iron Camp One and get a replacement ring. Like the original this one is also actual iron (and not stainless steel), and it’s also half a size smaller (so it won’t slip off so easily).

We moved onto the subway train, still catching up. We talked about where the last year went, and how we spent it pretending to be busy. Joshua used to love playing the cello, so I asked him whether he was still playing music. He wasn’t, being busy being the excuse again. He asked me if I was still doing magic, “not as much as I was doing before, in fact I just recently started carrying a deck of cards again!”.

I pulled out the deck and started to do some flourishes and fans. I was sitting near the subway doors, Josh sitting in the middle seat and there was a lady sitting beside Josh. I did what’s called a colour change to one of the cards and this caused both Josh and the lady to react… in words. “Hey, that was amazing! you’re a magician!”, she says. “In certain moments, yes”, I smiled back.

I continued to do flourishes, and when I did a one handed fan with half the deck, she literally reached over and grabbed my hand in delight! I’ve had people grab my hand in the middle of an effect to disrupt it, but not in sheer excitement. I continued to do more flourishes, and then put the cards away. Then the three of us got into a discussion about magic, and how the lady thought she’d never be able to do it. I told her with enough training and practise that she too could do magic, she would have none of it though. “You kids on the computers and keyboards, I could never have that type of dexterity”. Yes, yes you could. I had no idea I could do magic before I started either. That’s how it works.

She started to talk about professions, “yes we work with/in computers” we said. She mentioned her 25 year old son who did his undergrad from York in music and was going on to do a masters. She was worried about how he would make a living/money with his music degree but was much relieved that he was doing a masters and would possibly go into teaching. She went on to talk about her 21 year old son who into business.

I started to notice how sometimes I don’t make friends, I make strangers. Josh and the lady both were getting off a couple of stations before me, but as they were leaving the lady couldn’t help but pat me on the shoulder a couple of times saying, “thank you so much, you made our day”. Hmmm… you just made mine, thank you! and God bless your soul!  =). I also like how she said “our” and not “my”. That’s neat.

I haven’t posted a magic story in a while.  Initially even when something happened I refrained from posting it, and then I wasn’t doing much magic for something to happen.

We’ll see what happens next…