This is my post on How Magic Works. Just my opinion, of course.
Watch this video. I would just point to the video and rest my case, but that’s probably not enough for most people. I will make more words afterward. (Keyword: “Chladni plate,” just in case the video disappears at some point.)
A pure musical tone creates wave patterns, which draws random particles into a definite order. Change the tone, and you change the pattern. The tone must be pure. The plate must also be even, centered, and smooth. A stronger tone, or one that is sustained longer, creates a clearer image.
There are a number of people, happy to sell you their books, who will jump wholeheartedly behind that theory.
If only it were that easy! As I said up there, the purity of the tone is important. When was the last time you resonated your ka, or “sang” your intent, purely unhindered by conflicting emotions or ideas? It’s a really difficult thing to do! Ritual can help, if you’re a ritual kind of person. Meditational practice can help, if you’re a meditational kind of person. You can try borrowing the tone from a deity in prayer, if you can manage to make your ego step aside long enough for the god’s music to flow unhindered.
That’s only half of the challenge. The world does not sit on a flat metal plate. Sometimes you’re not trying to move sand, but boulders of irregular shape. The tone might be pure and loud, but variations in the environment can cause the pattern come out in unpredictable ways. Some tones also work better in a specific environment than others. This is the principle of resonance. A person might resonate really well with one deity, or tone, and really badly with another. A strong tone in the wrong place can even cause harm, as in the opera singer and the wine glass. Not so great to be the glass!
One more monkey wrench in the machine comes from the fact that you’re not the only one who is trying to sing your song. Wave patterns are being produced on all sides, at all times, like waves on the ocean. They might amplify each other in some places, and cancel each other in others. Life is messy. We don’t live in a vacuum.
If magic was easy, we’d all be rich and living in perfect health by now. On the other hand, if it was completely worthless, we wouldn’t keep doing it. Most of us have a tale about the time when it did work in some spectacular way.
Much of the advice you find in magical communities is oriented toward controlling one or more of these factors. Purity, power, resonance, environment, picking your battles, multiplying your effort with that of a group, even dampening excess noise or working in silence and isolation are important points to consider in improving your magical art.