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The Remarkable, Resilient Loren Connors

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If Lauren Connors was going to a gig, the guitarist knew he would have to crawl. It was two months later that I needed major surgery and an 11-day hospital stay.

However, he agreed to attend a concert hosted by his record label two miles from his apartment, improvising with a trio he had never met. After all, this was his life now. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 16 years ago, he expected his fall and accompanying fractures to escalate.

After an elevator ride from friends, there was only one unexpected hurdle that winter evening: 16 steep steps hidden in silos along the Gowanus Canal led to the venue. ‘Lauren got on all fours and started crawling up,’ says founder Eric Weddle family vineyardsaid on the phone. Weddle started a label to publish his Connors music, and now he’s standing on the stairs, stunned. “His laundry list of injuries is crazy, but this didn’t stop him. Resilience.

Connors, 72, can now barely cross a room. The pills he takes dozens of times each day often steal his speech to the point where he can only stutter. Even on good days, the syllables blur. His legs cramp at night, and he’s been mostly confined to the cramped apartment in his Heights, Brooklyn, which he shares with his partner, singer and lawyer Suzanne Langill, since 1990.

“Parkinson’s is a curse,” he said over his landline early one recent morning, when his speech was usually at its best. I’m just hanging out there.

He can still play guitar and paint, so he hangs in there to some extent. In his 30 years since his diagnosis, he has released about 100 records. It’s a serene suite of bleak melodies, a constant expanse of plangent his notes, and, more recently, a chaotic drift of ghostly tones.

This was one of the most productive periods of his career, with reissues of his rarest albums, which often fetch hundreds of dollars online, and distribution of new recordings by label federations. Because we are in a hurry. Last year, Connors shared his collaboration live with Sonic Youth. Kim Gordon and Australian experimental impresario Oren Ambarchiplus impressionist books flower sketch. “Airs,” a quiet collection of 1999’s sumptuous short pieces, will be reissued on Friday. art book And at least half a dozen other records are slated for next year.

“It’s a passion, an impulse. He has to create. all Rangil said on the phone. “And he’s still doing it with this burden on his back. It’s down to his determination and courage.”

Connors grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of opera singer Mary Mazacane and inventor Joe Mazacane. The family of five teetered on the brink of poverty — “a poor Irishman,” quipped Connors. built.

In 1975, after an unhappy — if artistically exciting — year at the University of Cincinnati, he became a janitor at Yale University. For ten years, he lived rent-free in his 20-artist-packed warehouse. Smells of paint and shellac mixed with smoke from melted plastics by toy-making businessmen. (With no family history of Parkinson’s disease, Connors believes he was eventually exposed to these toxins. led to his illness.)

Connors was obsessed with and still fond of acoustic blues and electric guitarists like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. (“All my avant-garde friends don’t like Clapton because he’s the star of pop,” he said. “He’s more than that.”) He runs his art gallery. , hosted a show with visiting musicians. Started self-release in the late 70’s A series of wonderful improvisations It suggests that Bruce fell apart after a violent car accident. “The welcome was just awful,” Connors said on a video call just after sunrise one September morning, while Langill laughed to his right. “Everyone thought I was really weird. I was pretty disappointed.”

Actually not everyone. Connors frequently cleaned the office of Southern cultural scholar William Ferris. William Ferris finds out that his janitor has been robbed of his job to gain access to Yale University’s vast library. Connors began sending them those early recordings to him, and Ferris provided his academic permission through the liner notes. Ferris said in an interview. “He wrote a new chapter in American music, the roots that I loved. He told me where the music was moving.”

He found another convert in Rangil. Fresh out of Yale Law School, she was captivated in 1984 when she saw him sitting at the piano improvising with a saxophonist. She loved that, as she put it, “the whole composition was in him from the first note and overflowing.” Two years later, they had their only child, Jamie. Four years after that, Connors quit his last job outside of art, the papermaking route. The three moved into his 600-square-foot apartment in His Heights, Brooklyn in 1990, where Langill could work as a public attorney, speak out against incinerators, and defend swamps.

For Connors, the move fulfilled a lifelong goal he never could have attained: New York became his source. After Ranjiel left for work, Connors and Jamie made daily pilgrimages to the Brooklyn Bridge, exploring Hell’s Kitchen and Five His Points. They spent hours in the library, researching Connors’ Irish heritage and the city’s history. homeless paper boy Or the work of artists like Mark Rothko.

“I came home from school and there was paint all over the big canvas ceiling and walls in this little apartment,” Jamie said. “Or he was recording an album in our living room and I was just sitting there watching really quietly.”

Connors, to his surprise, began meeting young experimental musicians who knew his work. His network has grown. For example, when Connors was in New York for less than a decade, Sonic his Youth Thurston his Moore sent him a month-long series to celebrate his 50th birthday. We held a concert. Four nights a week, Connors would hang out with new people. (His favorite? Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power.)

This executive admired Connors’ obsession with seemingly small ideas and recognized Connors’ legendary urge to always build something.

“On 9/11, picking up a guitar was on the back of my mind, but Lauren did the recording,” said Alan Licht, Connors’ most consistent collaborator for 30 years. rice field. “The city is burning, but he compose like, That dayHow deeply rooted it is. “

It may seem cruel that Connors was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991, just a year after arriving in New York City, the place he’d always wanted. Both Langille and Connors challenged the idea. Instead, she saw how motivated he was, hoping to get as much work done before he lost control of his hands. I even learned to schedule my meds so they wouldn’t get in the way of the music. “He jumped in and became incredibly productive,” she said. “Once he got into that rhythm, he didn’t stop.”

That cycle of playing and painting each day created a sort of artistic map of the progression of his disease. He improvises according to the changing conditions of his body. Connors once bent his strings wildly, as if the whole guitar was quivering beneath his blues. But now he’s producing a broad wash of subtle sound in a small-bodied Fender. Like the leaves turning red in autumn, the colors change little by little. He doesn’t mind the change, even if he didn’t choose it.

“People these days always have a plan. I didn’t do that,” Connors said with a quiet laugh. “When you are a child, you play like a child.

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