S_V_H Music Box Woodstock revision

What the visitor needs to know:

Photo 1: This is the music box Woodstock, first completed in late 2020, now attached to its new stretched canvas frame, and upgraded speaker system.

Photo 2: This is how the canvas Woodstock was stored until I moved it up and into the studio.
Photo 3: This shows the canvas sandwiched between to heavy cardboard covers to reduce any movement which would have easily torn the wooden notes from the canvas.


Photo 4: I made use of the two rejected wedding project canvases each 24×36 inches while adding two side 12×36 inch speaker canvases. This then matched the Woodstock canvas length.

Photo 5: Also in storage was the speaker system for the Woodstock canvas.
Photo 6: The finished canvas support frame. Woodstock canvas laying behind on the cardboard it came with.

Photo 7: Backside of Woodstock framed canvas support with stereo system now attached and with the new 2-way speaker upgrade.
The updated Woodstock Music Box audio dated October 3rd.


Going Deeper:


Back in November 2020, my studio was a small office room in a wonderful home in a surprising, but conservative town of Owatonna, Minnesota. My wife, Barbara, and I were house sitting for my daughter and her family, who had moved back to Wisconsin. Because the home was for sale, and we did not know how long we were to remain in Minnesota, I wanted to keep a small studio space. Because all my canvases were in storage in Wisconsin, I came up with the idea to just use loose canvases, inspired by Jackson Pollock, see image 3.

image 3: Jackson Pollock from 1949 Life magazine article.

I then built an aluminum frame that was adjustable from 72 to 76 inches by 36 inches in height. Canvases would then be attached to this aluminum frame with the use of magnets. The problem with this idea was, as you can see in this image below, I was using my scratch off technique. What that meant was that the top layer of paint would be susceptible to tearing loose from the canvas. Over time, this ability would lesson, but not in the earlier weeks of applying this technique. This would not be a problem if I hadn’t glued the wooden music to the canvas. My thinking was that areas where the top layer was removed down to the stable base paint layer would be enough for the glue to hold the music tight to the canvas. That proved to be a less than reliable solution to mounting wood to canvas.

The project before this Woodstock update was the Bach Cello upgrade. That work, in 2020, was extremely vulnerable to poor adhesion to the canvas. The thin shafts of the wooden music made it difficult to attach them firmly to the scratch off areas. Even during the Bach upgrade, I had several problems with those thin shafts becoming loose. I tried to solve that issue with the project Woodstock. With Woodstock I went with a wider stem seen in image 2. That helped, but the twisting of the loose canvas still resulted in the tearing loose of the wooden pieces. This entire issue was finally resolved when I used magnets to attach the wooden music to the canvas to the project Play That Song.

Image 1: Woodstock 2020 with temporary metal frame to be used also with other size canvas size works.
Image 2: Earlier, Bach canvas left of the Woodstock image


Roger's poem:
My younger Brother Roger passed away a year ago this last August. In a tribute to him I wrote a story poem that took months to complete. At his celebration of life, this last June 4th, I read it aloud, with encouragement and support from my family. I believe this poem contains universal relatable moments and meanings about the difficulties of losing someone close to you. It offers an understanding that loss is not about accepting and moving on. Instead, it is a story poem about the choice of moving ahead in Life with them.
(This poem is in fifteen parts or sections and with each new blog post there will be added one additional part. I am currently posting sections 1-10)


Roger’s poem

The sun in winter
is all too short.
Who knew as you move through our lives,
that yours would follow the winter sun.

Winter arrests time
for thought and reflection
that February afternoon.
Dressed for warmth
we venture out,
Into the soft light,
surrounded by stillness,
not an oak leaf stirring. 

The cold of that yesterday
 is heard in the crackling crunch
 of fresh fallen snow, 
 as I straddled previous steps
 along a well-worn path,
 deep into the woods.

Although I think
we are alone,
Zelda knows better,
her actions are telling. 
Life and the deer are about. 
Stopping with her tail up,
head sharply flipping, 
to-and-fro sensing something_, 
I also pause,
feeling a stirring in the air.
With her nose to the snow, 
Zelda looks to turn off the known path, 
to explore another trail, 
far less traveled. 
Her interest, I cannot foresee,
or know where it leads. 

Before I can call her back
to the safe way forward,
Winter freezes my momentum,
with a stinging breeze
across my cheeks,
breaking the silence,
awakening concerns.
Had I dressed warm enough?
I feel and pat
my coat,
all was there.
Then it came to me,
that it was not the cold,
but the wind, returning to me
moments once set
quietly away.
I wondered why on a
cold Winter’s Day
on this made-up path,
at this crossroad
in these common woods, 
this walk halted,
by an unforeseen breeze
sending a shiver
tumbling inside, 
then out into the light.
Why over all my many memories,
did I find this one exposed
from beneath Winter’s blanket_,
a consciousness,
an awareness,
that once_, 
was you? 

But time was fleeting.
I had let pass 
the diminishing forest light
and our late start.
Fearing the coming darkness
will hide this path,
I call Zelda back
to the safe way home. 
For Home is where we want to be. 
What choice have I,
but to be on our way. 
We had to turn back,
for time does not. 
I could only turn away. 

Those moments have passed
this another Winter’s Day,
although the cold
is harder to ignore,
our routine beckons. 
Although she cares less,
I dressed Zelda in a purple coat
and I in my heaviest hooded jacket,
thankful that each new walk
the sun grows nearer,
and longer,
and the return less concerning.  

Along the way
Zelda repeats her many stops,
on our well-walked path. 
And for a distance
all seems as it should,
until the quiet is interrupted
by a strong gust
pressing against my coat,
pausing our step. 
I feel this air’s warmth, 
as I look to see Zelda stopped ahead, 
her ears pushed back 
by the wind, standing at that 
barely a crossroad 
from yesterday. 
Her brown nose twitching 
in this comforting air. 
Although surprised 
to see her at this divide, 
I have a smile of déjà vu, 
by a long-ago line, 
from a well-used book of poetry 
now gathering dust, 
from the poet Robert Frost__, 
“Two roads diverged in a wood…” 
Two roads, 
in a wood. 
that is all I recalled. 
With a sigh and interest 
I pursue 
this other trail upwards, 
to see it following 
the rush of rolling clouds, 
knowing soon these winter paths 
will turn to mud, 
preventing our return, 
until the frozen has left. 
Thus beginning the awakening, 
ending Winter’s parsing of time, 
with days merging all too quickly. 
We will lose ourselves 
to work to be done, 
and unforeseen tasks, 
demands and bills to pay, 
that surely will come. 

Though today 
Winter still decides, 
in the fast blanketing 
approach of low clouds 
bursting with snow 
and ice pellets, 
pirouetting down to us, 
if in an effort 
to hide our way, 
on this favored path. 

But wait! 
Where is Zelda? 
I see her brown eyes turned away 
as she slow trots 
along the untrampled path. 
Concerned I call her back 
when from behind 
I am shoved stepping forward, 
by a distant hum  
that becomes a gusting woosh, 
shaking the treetops, 
that then fads slowly 
to a murmuring sound, 
all so astonishingly familiar, 
awakening a time 
thought placed away_, 
when I held your hand, 
my eyes focus on your whispered breath, 
not knowing what would be your last_. 
Until now. 

sections 1-10 of fifteen.....to be continued.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Woodstock final image & 2020 Christmas painting

This is my completed image of the artwork Woodstock.   Alongside of the artwork, I have an image showing the hanging frame for these free canvas artworks.  The round magnets on each side of the top of the frame are used to hold the artwork in place.  The other image is a closeup of the advanced stereo amplifier system that powers the music.

I will let the video tell the rest of the story of Woodstock from my home office studio being a stranger in a strange land.

The lesson I learned from Woodstock (mentioned in the video) is that placing the words on the top layer, instead of the bottom, may make it easier to read them even after scrapping.   I plan on testing this idea on the final Christmas painting.

Fifteen Years of Christmas paintings:
2006   Joy to the world
2007   Winter Wonderland
2008   Sleigh Ride
2009 White Christmas
2010   What Child is This
2011   The Christmas Song
2012   Let it Snow
2013    You Raise Me Up
2014   A Great Big Sled
2015   Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
2016   Ave Maria
2017   Silver Bells
2018   Rockin’ Around the Christmas
2019   Happy Xmas (the War is Over)
2020   Please Come Home for Christmas (the final painting of this Series)

Here is one of many versions of this year’s Christmas song sung by Martina McBride:

I picked this music for its connection with the Blues.  There are few to none other popular Christmas songs in that genre, and this is the best.   This version from the David Letterman’s final Christmas show puts this music over the top with Darlene Love’s Gospel influence.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Woodstock artwork with frame

This latest image shows the frame that allows me to wall hang artworks from 72 to 76 inches by three feet in height. This frame also contains the artwork’s sound system, and the magnets that are used to attach the artwork. On the left side is my new 20 watt stereo system, and the four-inch speaker boxes.  The quality of the sound has improved from previous systems where I started with a sound box for stuffed animals and a built in 0.5watt speaker.  Today’s system comes from the enormous improvements made by my first custom sound setup.  That stereo system used one-dollar and ninety-five cents three-inch speakers and a 2 watt stereo amp.

I believe the 20watt amplifier and my speaker choices are now good-to-go.  When I first added sound to these artworks getting them up and running was the concern.  This is my second 20watt system, which is a lot more complicated than my previous amplifiers, and considering all the soldering, everything went as planned, almost routine.  That means I now have the time to turn my attention to improving the enclosures that hold the speakers.  If I give their build a little more attention to detail, I think this can be a shortcut to improving the sound even more. 

Current 20Watt Stereo System with on/off switch

I have finished and signed the artwork Woodstock.  I will discuss this project, include a video, and talk about my last Christmas painting in my next blog entry.

Scott Von Holzen

Woodstock Image 4

This image shows the artwork project, Woodstock, with most of the add-on’s in place, and the artwork in a near finished look.  I have left all my temporary pieces of numbered tapes to record this moment that shows the system used to locate and place the beaming and all the other add-ons such as slurs, ties, incidentals, eighth note flags, and as a guide for the dotted notes.   Every one of these artworks builds on a past artwork’s style, but their construction needs vary from each other.   This photo may help future projects as I move from mistake to mistake and problem to problem.

Looking at the above photograph and then turning around to the artwork, the difference is striking.  The photo lacks the third-dimension, which then allows the background to dominate the artwork in a kaleidoscope of movement, shapes and colors.  Looking at the life-sized original artwork, the music physically stands out, creating a better balance with the background.  This allows to music to capture the viewer with its own up and down, and back ‘en forth animation.

Applying the music is the last major part of completing this project.  This will take several days.  When completed I will post a video.

Woodstock the artwork,  I define as fragile, makes showing it difficult. It is touchy to even move.  To display my artworks in public has always been a priority.   This work complicates show options.

I have done approximately 15 public viewings of this art using art shows and exhibitions since we moved with the first local show in the spring of 2017,  and ending early 2020 at the Hopkins Art Center.  The results are not mixed, with a heavy lean of expenses, token feedback,  no interest, no inspiration, no new opportunities,  little motivation to repeat, and little incentive to continue applying.  My take away from Art Fairs and group exhibitions is that they reset every year, and even if you are successful (your own definition) in time, even those offerings that where once positive will fade. 

That means if I would attend 100 more Art Fairs and group exhibitions, this art would eventually return me to where I started with nothing accomplished other than wasted time and monies.  Artists who create for the public art market for a time may attend more success, but again that too will eventually wind down for each year the local art market does a redo.  Knowing that, and even after repeated attempts, I have dropped one display opportunity after another.  A conclusion may be this art is not ready for the public art market, at less not for now.  For now, my now comprises two important and final (I have no other plans to show until they contain COVID), shows where I will display for the first time multiple artworks.

The first show will be a two person exhibition at the Center for the Visual Arts in Wausau,  this coming May.  The second show will also be a two people at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, Wisconsin.  Because of the Covid shutdown, I am waiting for rescheduling information.  My heart tells me both shows will end the same with little to show.  That does not alter my intentions to present two professional exhibitions that will display a brief history of this art and its music.  I know the value of this art. My task is to keep on explaining and displaying.  That keeps me keeping on the look for the next best opportunity.   No other choice exists.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Woodstock image 3

Woodstock image 3 shows the music in place.   Different from the last work I did widened the music stems which allows me to attach my musical notes, incidentals, ties, and slurs to those stems.  This is consistent with my style before I left my studio for my current home office studio.  The wider stems have the benefit of more glue in contact with the canvas, allowing for a stronger bond.  I realized when moving my last unstretched artwork that any amount of twisting of the canvas can loosen pieces.  Maintaining the attaching of the music to unsupported canvas remains a concern.  These artworks present an uniqueness not seen in art.  Their freedom from a support, that has been a fundamental part of painting for over 500 years,  enhances that.

Next up, I will add all my embellishments for interest.  Finally, I have a decent rendition of the music Woodstock, and since I am not hurried to start another project, I would like to experiment with the instrumentation.  The complicated software I use for the arrangement requires me to switch my concentration away from art to the mechanics of music production.  My ability to process only one artwork at a time, also relates to my arrangements of the music.  That is why I try to complete the music before I build the artwork.  It all comes down to focus and success that moves me from one point to the next, one foot in front of the other, through one door and knocking on the next.

Scott Von Holzen



S_V_H Woodstock 2nd image

Woodstock first image

This second image shows the results of the scratch-off technique of the top layer.  I have mixed feelings.  I would have liked the words on the background layer to show better, to connect the viewer to the music.  To accomplish that, I realized I would need to remove too much of the top layer, losing much of the scraped look.   Also, because the words where casually applied their inconsistent look makes identifying them harder.  For comparison, here again is the original background of this artwork.  The words are there.  Whether anyone can find them and then read them only matters to me.   For now, they exist, and their colors show, and at this learning stage of this technique everything is subject to change with next artwork.

Next I will being cutting out 125 pieces of wood for my music stems.  I already cut out my poker chips note heads twice for this work.  The first size was 1 5/8 inches, which were too big.  I will save them for another project.  I returned to the drill press and cut another batch, this time sized at 1 1/2 inches.  They are all sanded and painted brown.  The stems will be stained and then painted.

Scott Von Holzen

S_V_H Woodstock first image & a little J S Bach

This first image of Woodstock shows the painted background for the foundation of my scratch-off technique.   This first step differs in appearance from my last three artworks that also used this style method.   The purpose of the scratching off the top layer of paint is to expose parts of the backgrounds, which creates an unique and unpredictable (not boring) contrast with the music.  I could have chosen any abstract background style, but did not with my past three works.  They shared a style with Where to have all the Flowers Gone.  I changed this trend with Woodstock.  For this artwork, I had an option the others lacked,  lyrics.  Instead of painting a silly nothing image for the background, I painted the lyrics that are part of the music.

This idea of removing paint to expose more than another layer of paint originates with my Bach Menuet.   For that work I glued a copy of Bach’s handwritten music to the background of the canvas and then scraped off the final topcoat to expose the sheet music.   This same idea works with the lyrics from Woodstock.  When revealed the words add color and connection to the music and the artwork.

To paint so many words, I looked first to Jean Michel Basquiat’s handling of words (he used a lot of them in many of his artworks).  Here is an example of his style from Artnet.   He used oil sticks (oil paint in the form of a crayon) to write out his words.  I do not have any oil sticks, so as in the past I brushed in the lyrics with the bar set at legibility.


I finished the J S Bach work, Prelude, in September.  What I had not completed was the audio and the mount for the artwork. Prelude is the first work that uses the new 20watt amplifier and speaker system, whose construction and configuration took time. It was up and running only after receiving some replacement parts delayed in shipping.  When they arrived, I mounted them on a board I attached to a custom-built aluminum frame that holds the speakers, amplifier and to which I could attach and remove the artwork. Here is my YouTube video of my arrangement of J S Bach Cello Suite No.1 The Prelude mounted on the frame.

Up next I will prep the background so I can apply the top coat of paint, which for this artwork will be Cerulean Blue Deep. Once the final coat dries the fun part (and mess) begins as I will then scrap of the Cerulean to review what is beneath.

S_V_H The Song Woodstock intro

Joni Mitchell wrote the song: Woodstock,  which will be the subject of the next musical portrait.

By the time I finish an artwork that can take a month or more, I have lost much of my earlier interest and am ready to move on.   Thankful for a break it can take days to find and select the next piece of music to portray.  Then it takes added time to convince myself that the chosen music is worth the effort.  How I work is from project to project:  I focused until I finish an artwork,  and only then do I consider what to do next.

Once I have chosen my next subject, I arrange the music.  That was a lot easier before I added sound.   Without sound or words, what I did was pick a phrase or a sentence from the music as a start point and follow that to an obvious end point.  If the music included words I then had to choose carefully not only the words (Copywrite concerns on my part), but I had to make sure I still had a good start and end point.  Now days with added sound,  I create arrangements.  What that means is I pick short sections from different parts of the music’s notation, change them to connect,  and then together I create a pleasant flow of the music I am portraying.  This takes days with many revisions.  Eventually, I find an arrangement that sounds good to my ear.  I then move on to the artwork, using my arrangement as my guide to building the artwork.

That is where I am at with this first blog entry about the Woodstock project. There is no first image of the artwork (The start date of his project is September 26th).   Instead, I am offering a late revision of the music that I arranged for this artwork and that I will use as my guide to cut out, sand, prime, and paint what will be the notation parts for this project.

This is my current arrangement of the project Woodstock that comes from the music of Joni Mitchell:

In 1970 while in college in Madison the version of Woodstock I knew was by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. This song was on their album Déjà vu, a favorite album of mine. Their music confirmed my taste preference for the melodic style of Rock music

I discovered my rock n’ roll style when the Beatles came to America, as a sophomore in a rural high school farming town. I was a Beatles rock ‘n roll guy: great melodies and lyrics, at moderate volume, without any distortion. I had little to no interest in the groundbreaking hard rock style of Led Zeppelin. Obviously, my musical tastes expanded in college. I grew to like The Who, buying their album Live at Leedes, and Cream buying their two disc album Wheels of Fire. Still, The Beatles’ influenced continued into the eighties as I favored Madonna and the Funky sound of Prince, instead of Van Halen, whose music hits resurface with the passing of Eddie Van Halen.

Why then did I not arrange the version of Woodstock from my past? It was because recently when I listened to Joni Mitchell’s Folk rockin’ version of Woodstock; it caught my interest. I knew it would be a better fit for my current limited arrangement abilities, and it would be an acknowledgement of my early years appreciation for Folk music. Folk music later paralleled my preference for rock ‘n roll and grew from the likes of Peter, Paul and Mary, to Joni Mitchell, who I often mixed up with another favorite of mine, Judy Collins. I believe the album Déjà vu contains several other songs that are artwork worthy of future projects for the Sixties time in my life. This one is a thank you to Joni Mitchell, and her lyrics about my lasting memory of the Woodstock Rock Festival.

Finally, unrelated to the music, I have a comment about this blog site. Starting early in its existence, I made up a goal to post the same number of letters Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo Van Gogh. That total is a challenging 658. After ten years of blogging, this post will bring me to 637. I am only twenty-one away.

Scott Von Holzen