By Trent Rentsch
My collections have become legendary among friends and family (and infamous to my wife). Everyone collects something; I tend to collect many things. There are the usual things… CD’s/MP3’s, books by favorite authors, movies. There are collections that are easier to manage, space-wise… email addresses and audio software come to mind. Then there is the unusual, and the sprawl…
I don’t give much conscious thought to the insanity (my wife’s name for it), day to day. It’s only when I need to move it around that I realize that my dear spouse might have a point. I’m in one of those times currently. Another child left the nest a couple of months ago, and I decided that I wanted to move my studio/office to the room over the garage to gain a little more space (for all my “crap,” my wife suggested). It has turned into a project that needed several months to complete, due in no small part to re-organizing my treasures.
What exactly makes up my “mass of clutter?” Let’s see… there’s the audio gear, the old and new, the “used daily” and somewhat obsolete. There are computers, most older, some of mine, some that family members have abandoned at my door. Guitars, several, even though I’m only a 3 chord wonder (for reasons of economy, my wife was very happy to see that collection stall at 6). There are guitar straps full of pins from Hard Rock Café and House of Blues visits. My last job saw me writing for a lot of car dealers, which re-ignited my passion for Hot Wheels toy cars; I seem to have a couple of cases of them now. Speaking of cars, my never-ending interest in Batman has left me with many model versions of the Batmobile. Because I’ve always loved cartoons (and would really like to be a voice in one), I have my favorites sitting around… Bugs Bunny, the Animaniacs, Gumby and Pokey, Mickey, on and on. There are Gargoyle statues, which were joined by totem poles after our trip to Alaska. Then there are the pewter wizard statues, which have been joined by ceramic ones the past few years — a representation of my interest in both the Renaissance and magic. Ahh, yes, magic…
Other than the Hot Wheels, magic was my earliest collection. I caught the bug watching the array of magicians that appeared on variety shows when I was a kid. I got my first magic kit saving cereal box tops; I later discovered mail order magic catalogs. By the time I was in high school, I had something of a magic show put together, and continued doing birthday shows through my college years. Then came radio and “real life,” and all the magic went into a trunk and was shoved in a corner. But the problem with any of my collections is, they never really die, they only gather dust while I focus on other ones for awhile.
I blame the latest Houdini biography for waking up the boy magician. Since I read it a year ago, I’m back to collecting magic books, tricks, DVD’s and playing cards. I’ve told myself that I’m now more of a “magic historian,” and not really interested in performing, but I’ve lied to myself about other things in the past. The truth is, I’ve picked up a few books on magic performance, and do spend time fumbling with cards and considering putting a show together again.
Despite what you may hear from some people (read: my bride), there are some real benefits to my collections, not the least of which is the Creative inspiration I get from them all. Through mindlessly strumming a guitar or staring at my totems while daydreaming, I discover that clearing in my mind where ideas hang out. Thinking about old Warner Brother’s cartoons puts me in a good place to choose the correct music to fit the mood of a production. Then there are the more direct Creative ideas which come from reading about the performance of magic. After all, we aren’t so different from stage magicians; exchange the wand and colorful boxes with a microphone and Pro Tools and “POOF!” Audio Magic!
The connection between the Magician and Audio Creative really came into focus for me when I read the book, “Beyond Secrets,” by Jay Sankey. Jay is not only a talented Magician, but also one of the most Creative minds in the world designing new and different magic tricks. If you spend a little time at his website (sankeymagic.com), you’ll realize that he’s been responsible for the creation of many of the tricks you see the “big name” Magicians do on television. On top of it all, Jay is also a gifted Comedian AND a really nice guy who is willing to share his knowledge with others.
The first chapter that really pointed to the connection between Creative and Creating Magic is entitled, “Is Magic an Art?” What Producer doesn’t wonder if the “lowly radio spot” is art from time to time… especially the one that requires a lot of Creativity but only runs for a couple of days? Other chapters that speak to Audio Creatives include, “Begin by Connecting,” “What Is Your Market?” “Intimate Scripts,” “An Actor Playing a Part,” “Expressing and Communicating,” and many others. The beauty of this book is that, while the language is geared to the working Magician, any Creative will find value in its words. It’s not a “trick book,” but rather a collection of theories on how to design and perform a magic act; how to deal with an audience and draw them into your world. I can confidently say that, even if you don’t give a rip about magic, at least 90% of what you would read in this book would give you something new to consider in your writing and audio production. It certainly belongs on your bookshelf, along with your collection of advertising and production books. That’s where mine stays. However, the playing card Jay autographed for me is in my magic collection…