Musician of the Month: Squalloscope (Anna Kohlweis) | Cassandra Voices

Musician of the Month: Squalloscope (Anna Kohlweis)


There is a poem by Mary Ruefle called „Provenance“. It ends with with the following words:

So I have gone up to the little room
in my face, I am making something
out of a jar of freckles
and a jar of glue

I hated childhood
I hate adulthood
And I love being alive.

This is also what my artist statement closes with, the one I occasionally have to send out to residencies or other art institutions to prove that I am always ready to be my entire weird self and produce something out of nothing (or a jar of freckles and a jar of glue) for a humble chunk of money, or simply a room to live, sing, sketch, write, sew, paint, film, and make noise in.

I don’t like the categorisation of creative work, those restrictive boxes for organic, wild, un-boxable growths. „I make things“, I often say. „You’re a storyteller“, my partner says. „You point at what has always been there, and make me see it for the first time“, my cousin says. „Ha ha“, my brother says.

There isn’t one thing that was here first. I was not making music before I was painting, or painting before I made sculptures. The documentation available to me from my childhood in provincial Austria shows that I made drawings as a baby, and at one point I glued three pieces of paper together and called it „Staubsauger (Vacuum cleaner)“. There is also a cassette tape that features me at kindergarten age, passionately singing a song I had just made up called „Wenn ich alleine bin, bin ich verloren (When I am alone, I am lost)“ about feeling mistreated and very, very sad and I can happily report that nothing has changed. I still do all those things, partly because I must, but mostly because nobody was silly enough to tell me to stop. I am also, of course, still very, very sad.

Creating music and visual art, similar to dancing, aren’t primarily fancy, romantic, dramatic jobs. It is mostly basic human behaviour. I am glad I get to do all of it to this extent.

I don’t think the ways in which I came to make music are particularly interesting. It was just a way of saying something when things needed to be said; a way to prove to my teenage self that I, too, could say those things in that particular way. I can’t play any instrument „properly“, but I put many to good use. My music reading skills are still that of a seven-year-old learning to play the recorder. I don’t know which notes or chords I am playing most of the time, but music has been a solo endeavour for the majority of my life, so I don’t need to communicate my unorthodox ways of producing it to anybody.

I made my first record back in 2005-ish, using a very slow laptop, the free software Audacity, a peanut-sized clip-on microphone, and the audacity to think that this is how you could make an album. I learned how to be my own recording engineer, learned how to mix my songs by knowing no theory but knowing my ears, learned how to turn field recordings into rhythms, learned how to make beats by trial and error, copy and paste, and I obsessively wrote lyrics because that was always the easiest part. I wrote in English because it was fun, it was a game of discovery and growth, and it was the right tool to reach beyond the confinements of home. When I was twelve, in the early days of the internet, I would stay up all night to talk to American teenagers in music-themed chatrooms. It made me feel connected to the world in a way that seemed vital and endlessly exciting at the time. Connecting to my international audience through poetry brings back very similar emotions.

The narrators and characters in my work have a tendency to seem lost, searching, observing, often barely tethered to the earth. I myself have trouble figuring out the boundaries between the self and its surroundings, often losing track of who I am and what I do. My work is strongly influenced by recurring dreams and folklore, images of the subconscious that are found again and again throughout the history of humans explaining themselves. That is how i put myself in context, this is how I find my footing.

Every morning, I wake up raw and shapeless, barely remembering who I am, as if it was all lost in sleep. Creating music and images means re-making myself, establishing my contours, every day anew. The work is what tethers me to the earth; this is gravity.

Between 2006 and 2022, I made six solo albums, three or four EPs, an album with my band Twin Tooth, a few short film soundtracks, a bunch of singles, a hard drive full of unreleased material, and various songs in collaboration with friends, most of them long-distance because I love to make things difficult and expansive for myself.

As I am writing this, I am sitting on a couch at an artist residency inside a former stove factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. A fellow resident is frying something in the adjacent kitchen, and a pickup truck down in the parking lot has the bass turned up so high that the walls are shaking. At night, the freight trains blow their horns. I have an old guitar at my disposal, a stack of watercolour paper, and a lot of empty wall space to fill.

Songs will happen here, and if not here, then somewhere else, after. There are four music-related projects I would like to finish and five I would like to start. An album’s worth of lyrics for the next Twin Tooth record need to be written. A solo EP demands polishing. A scrap of found fabric wants to be shaped into a person. Paper is patiently waiting to be sent through a Letterpress. What must be said will be said, if not in sound, then in color, light, paint, fabric.
Jar of freckles and jar of glue, both in my back pocket.


About Author

Comments are closed.