The following video I had to do in two parts. While filming, I carelessly removed the music from the background. This resulted in a magnet falling and damaging the sound board part of the stereo system. The sound board holds the music file and enables me to connect a switch that, when pressed, plays the music. That accident required the soldering and putting together of a replacement sound board that was then rewired to the amplifier, which was not damaged.
The Peter Principal states that “what can go wrong, will go wrong,” What makes that logic even more obvious and true was that I knew well that easy access and a low profile made the stereo components vulnerable to accidents. For now, until I can come up with a better design, I added a simple cover of light bubble wrap over the entire stereo system to deflect and absorb contacting.
Here is a picture of the stereo system used for the music box of Your Song.
This artwork project could be a sign that I may revisit the use of stretched canvases. I like their strong support structure for the music, along with their ease of handling and cost savings. I also have a lot of canvas stock from previous purchases that I do not want to waste.
My custom combination of metal framing and free flowing canvases cut to size eliminated a frustration of the limited sizes of stretched canvas that comes with the benefit of cost, and time savings. over making my own frames and stretching the canvas. That means I will continue to use and take advantage of the freedom of this technique, to breakup, and counter the boxy closed look of traditional stretched canvas.
I ran into a problem of my creation by not calculating the project’s length. Until recently, I would count the number of notes and the spacing between each, and that total would give me an accurate project length. I would then put together the size of the background needed to support the music. Lately, instead of lining up my music in straight rows across the canvas, I have been stacking my music in an up and down zip-zag pattern. By doing this, I use more of the artwork’s vertical space. The benefit is I can then overlap the music. This can then reduce the require length of canvases. The trade off is the zip-zag method has variables a straight line does not. That then makes it difficult to estimate the final length of the project, and only a guess if the music will fit the background. That happened with this project. The music did not fit. It then took considerable time to find the solution. I finally had to calculate what my actual length of the music would be laid end to end. That turned out to be twelve and a-half feet. My four original prepped canvases had a combine length of six feet four inches. No wonder the music would not fit. The solution ended up being increasing the length of the background.
This project now comprises three additional canvases that are bolted to the original design. The last project that use bolts was the 2017 artwork When Doves Cry. What also complicates the size of these artworks is that I need to make sure that any signal piece does not exceed the maximum length of seventy-two inches by twenty-four. That is the space I have in my car.
I have to say I actually knew I would be length poor and in trouble once I had the music in a rough draft. Since I had already finished, the background canvases I first considered attaching angled aluminum between the two center canvases, for a max length of 72 inches, and the speaker canvases to reach the length needed. The problem was the short length of my music sections. They fell into the space the aluminum created. I found no practical method to float the music. Finally, to attach the music, I went the easy way by adding canvases. Since I had already finished my background, I took another shortcutby painting the added canvases a shade of black with a lighter black glaze. To my surprise, I liked the contrast of the background canvases. I see more of this idea being used in future projects, and wondered if this logic is unique in the five-hundred years of canvas painting.
After years of trying to follow the worn artist path to victory, I am now going with Robert Frost and these lyrics by Ricky Nelson from the Song, Gardan Party:
“And it’s all right now, yeah Learned my lesson well You see, you can’t please everyone So you got to please yourself”
I simplified the thought behind these words to four piano notes: A4, F4, A4 D4. My first song with these lyrics: My art, my rules.
This is the last stage of my scratching technique, when I draw in the words. I dislike art that includes words to enhance the works’ lack of purpose. My words go with the music. They are there because they belong. They exist to add interest and offer the viewer the option to choose their meanings. I have always applied words in that way. If the music has words, I like to use them. I see them as decorative graffiti. I then scratch through them. This technique downplays their value and covers my print writing, which is awful, but important. My hand writing connects me to the artwork, not unlike Jackson’s Pollack hand print on his canvas.
I should mention how I choose the colors for this artwork. The background color ideas that appear through the scratching, and the top white layer of white, come from Elton John’s outfit in an early video of Your Song. The silver I used for the words I found in the glasses of Lady Gaga’s performance of Your Song at the 2018 Grammies.
This is a technical note: This image above is after the scratching was done. Issues are continuing with getting a clean scratching across the entire canvases. The top layer, in places, is rubbery. That means the pallet knife tears the top layer instead of clean ripping it away. This issue could be caused by the thickness of the paint, or that it needs longer drying time. The solution is further complicated by the rubbery issue not being consistent across the canvas. What is known is that as the days pass, the top layer firms up on the artworks and my test canvases. Letting the top layer of paint cure for maybe weeks, with testing, could be an answer, except that does not work for me. I live with each of these projects until finished. Only when completed do I start the search for the next music project. Hum, so the choice is?
This is the first image of Your Song, my next music box, featuring the music of Elton John Your Song. Like all of my first images, this one will disappear under a top coat of paint. Only then will it be reviewed when I scratch off parts of that top layer of paint. As I have said, this bottom layer I can paint anything a prodigy would paint. I choose to go with narrow and vertical colors because my scratching is strongly horizontal. This creates a pleasant flow of colors across the canvas.
With this project I am gong anti Robert Frost and diverging down a road most traveled. I have a large amount of stretched canvases that have been stacked away for years. Lately my music boxes have used loose canvas attached to an aluminum frame, and connected to stretched canvas speaker boxes. This work uses all stretched canvases, with two 24 inch by 30 inch, and two 8 inch by 24 inch canvases. I may separate the two 30 inch center canvases with angled aluminum once I calculate the length of the music to be attached.
I have a large stack of stretched canvases. I also was tired of handling loose canvas, which requires a frame to attach to with magnets. When finished assembling my loose canvas artworks, they resembled my stretched canvases works, without the stretching part. The loose canvas style advantage is I can create custom sizes. With bought stretched canvas I have many size choices, but not all sizes are available. Because I do not have the time to build custom frames and then stretch canvases, I ended up purchasing many stretched canvases sizes as a workaround. That ended up, regrettably, with me storing an extensive collection of canvas that can sit for years, and taking even more years to use up.
Back in my college days, I bought albums, with little monies to spare, at the local record shop on State Street. While in college, I probably first heard of Elton John listening to Your Song on the radio. I did not think that much of him to buy the album.
The record albums that I bought (in no particular order) that come to mind around the late sixties and early 1970s of my college years, are the great album Déjà vu – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young 1970 release, Mad Dogs & Englishmen – Joe Cocker 1970, The Who – Live at Leeds 1970, and probably Tommy 1969 release, Cream Wheels of Fire 1968 release, also in my first year 1968 in the dorm when I heard Laura Nyro’s album Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. My top favorite record in the dorm was Blood, Sweat & Tears – Blood, Sweat & Tears 1968, Switched-on Bach 1968 release, The Beatles – White Album November 1968, Woodstock 1970, Sweet Baby James – James Taylor release 1970, Pearl – Janis Joplin 1971 release date that was the last album I bought before college graduation, and my motorcycle trip out west. I also bought a great album Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon and Garfunkel 1970 release, that was given to me just before graduation, just out of college Barbra Joan Streisand – Barbra Streisand 1971, and finally Tumbleweed Connection – Elton John 1970 release date while still in college.
I finally bought into Elton John with his record album Tumbleweed Connection because it appealed to what I will call my version of country classic rock, placing it right up there, with Déjà vu. Great songs from beginning to end. This was followed by my favorite from beginning to end Elton John’s album, Madman Across the Water.
All those albums and more that I have forgotten connect all together to me musically. That is why I still play Elton John’s music on Spotify, and probably why Your Song was an easy pick to paint, especially after watching Lady Gaga’s revival at the 2018 Grammies.
This is the third and last of my cover music rough cuts using the notation software, Notion. The sheet music will be the worksheet that will guide me through the building of this artwork.
My artwork musical covers are about the music and not so much about the lyrics. It is about creating a portrait of a song, melody first, not the lyrics, especially with these music boxes. My thinking was different for this project.
My cover of Your Song begins with the third verse. That start was chosen because of the lyrics “I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss….” When I hear those words, I flash back to a wonderful artwork I did in 2013, and sold, through the help of my cherished brother Roger Von Holzen. That artwork was, Up on the roof. Here is the search link to the artwork’s story. It was Lady Gag’s updated version of Your Song, and those words that reminded me of Up on the Roof, that convinced me to paint this music. It is hard to explain my connection to Up on the Roof, but it was then, and still today, it remains meaningful.
I built my cover music of Your Song by first connecting the original piano intro to the third verse. From there it was about capturing the character of the song while editing away everything that either got in the way or was repeating what my cover already covered. My editing can be harsh. I have to be to keep my music under the one minute thirty second limit. Of course, quality is a loss with my slash and burning off of a 4:04 minute Elton John’s song, down to less than 1:30 minutes. That is a price. The return is the challenge and teaching lessons with each of these portraits, and the growing connection between the visual and performance arts. This is an opportunity I am thankful to have. So it is.
This song by Elton John goes way back to my college years. I probably would not have thought of painting it until it popped back into my head from the 2001 musical Moulin Rouge. Certainly Lady Gaga’s recent cover and live performance at the Grammies made me think that this music had legs. Finally, I am a fan of Elton John’s music and Your Song’s prominent use of the piano, gives me a foundation for the creation of the sheet music that is my music box production guide.
Every new artwork starts out with the music that I selected to portrait. I put together the cover sheet music using the notation software, Notion 5, and its instruments. That sheet music, which takes days to create, is not only is the visual guide for the artwork that I will sample to paint, it is also the musical arrangement for the music box.
My notation software follows rigid rules when creating the sheet music worksheet. I don’t when I put together the visual up and down flow of the song’s music. Changes often occur where needed. For example, I may combine notes to better fit the artwork.
This musical arrangement will also change once I import it into my digital production software, Studio One. This software offers the music tools and third party instruments that will eventually allow me to produce a professional sounding song. I am not there yet. But with this software, I have higher quality and control over the instruments than anything the notation software offers. Still, creating that cover sheet music is my critical starting guide to my project’s success. Changes will occur, but what will not change is the cover sheet music’s up and down flow and the timeline rule: less than one minute, thirty seconds.
This is a follow up video showing an actual finished artwork. I forgot to create the incidentals for the music box. Those add-ons include a sharp, a flat, a tie, a couple of flags, and four beams. They are there to give music box more of a musical look that is common in sheet music. Although not as much with this artwork, all those little additions add interest and are decorative. The video discusses this and the sampling process used for the visual part of this portrait of a song.
For many years, whatever musical phrase I picked for the subject, that is what I would paint. When I added sound, I continued with that idea, painting the entire length of the music. As my musical skill and interest increased, it became apparent that I had to either reduce the size of the music that I was portraying or increase the size of the artwork. The ever-increasing length and composition of the cover music was growing. For the viewer this also made it increasingly difficult to follow the music and the visual together. The problem was that the music had involved to be as important as the artwork that was portraying it.
To get hold of what I was creating, I set a one minute thirty second maximum time limit on themusic. Then, from that cover music, I would select a piece, or a sample, to portray as the visual. Hopefully, this will keep these artworks to a length, and a construction timeline, that I can handle.
I see it this way: full-length paintings of portraits are few in numbers compared, for example, with portraits from the waist up. It is like the portrait painter is sampling the image of a person. My music paintings and now my music boxes are, and have always been portraits of a song.
In the video I give the viewer, awkwardly, an example of how the music is represented in the visual. I have nothing else to add to that except this entire process of combing the visual art with performance art is continuing to continue to be a continuing evolution. So it goes.
There were major issues with the focus of this video, that annoyed me, but published it anyway. I was happy (in my way) with the content and the enthusiasm of this video. To then try to repeat all of my spontaneous responses to my own comments, in the same way, that would not happen. This focusing issue resulted in spending precious afternoon studio hours testing different solutions. Surprised, a setting change to my Canon 5D mark IV, and to my external microphone setup, resulted in good-to-go for now focus.
I do have this comment not mentioned in the video. The smaller than my normal sized canvas, mostly white painted, and the larger size of the music, along with my black colored staffs, is the reason that the music dominates this music box. The temporary off white support for this work also it blends too easily with the canvas. What is the obvious difference with works from this last year is that those canvases are larger and filled with more colors that contrast. For this project, white and muted grays were my options if I wanted to use the cover of The Beatles White Album as my template. Because of my history with photography I live to capture contrast in my photos and my artworks. I did so a little. So it is. So it is not.
Here is another put-together video of my latest Music Box Martha my Dear.
The canvas is six feet, but it is only twenty inches in width. That turned out to be a little tight. When I made this video, I had not attached the industrial Velcro I use along the top edge to prevent the canvas from sliding between the magnets. What happened when I attached the small upper piece to the right, the weight of the music pulled the canvas down. The magnets attached to the music were at the very top of the frame and the canvas. Making it even more difficult to hand is that the music built for this artwork is larger than previous works. This created a similar problem with the large centerpiece of the music, with it, the magnets, and canvas all seating along the bottom edge. This is a lesson learned. I wanted to see if I could attach the music to narrower pieces of canvas. What I learned is that a wider canvas would have made it easier to arrange the music, and that I should avoid trying to attach the music to either the top or the bottom of the canvas. For this work, I will figure out how to better arrange the music away from the edges of the canvas. Along with the added Velcro for support, this artwork should make for an interesting and enjoyable Music Box for the viewer to view and play. If that opportunity eventually presents itself. So it is.
I use the software Notion that is part of my DAW, StudioOne, to create the notation for what will eventually be my final cover version of the music used in this artwork’s music box. The instruments in Notion are decent, but I can improve the sound of my cover music substantially in StudioOne. Having the Notion version play on my newly build stereo system is part of the testing I do, to hear what improvements are needed.
Although I have paid for a cover license for this music for the minimum of 25 copies, I will only have this one music box and this one final version of this music. If the Powers-to-be of YouTube complain about the music, I will then switch this video from Public to Private, on YouTube, but the link to this video will still work.
The only purpose of this video is to be a part of the documentation of this art’s progress. Nothing more is relevant. I have over 100 videos over the last nine years, with many with no or only a few views. I do not have the time, nor do I want to spend the time to cater to the “Like” button. All of my videos, which become clearly apparent, are as raw as can be. I prefer it that way. I have said, I hope I never go viral. The cost to me and to this art would be too high if that happens in followup wasted time. My focus is this Art and never to be another one-hit-wonder. So it is.