Times Square concert for canines

The concert was performed by Laurie Anderson (right) in the open where the temperature was minus 10 deg C.
The concert was performed by Laurie Anderson (right) in the open where the temperature was minus 10 deg C.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • Days after up to a million people crammed into New York's Times Square to ring in 2016, a canine audience had some midnight entertainment.

In a concert that was in equal parts humour and metaphysical reflection, experimental artist Laurie Anderson played a set composed for dogs on her tape-bow violin. Dozens of dogs in Times Square howled or barked at sounds perceptible only to their ears, although the hundreds of humans in attendance could also tune in on headphones.

Anderson conceived of Monday night's concert to accompany her documentary, Heart Of A Dog, which tackles mortality, love, art and post-9/11 surveillance. Her rat terrier, Lolabelle, a central character in the documentary, has died. So has Anderson's husband, rock legend Lou Reed, to whom the film is dedicated.

A three-minute sequence of the film, which has been shortlisted for an Oscar nomination, is airing through this month just before midnight on some of Times Square's iconic billboards. The edit homes in on the bardo, the journey into the afterlife as depicted in The Tibetan Book Of The Dead.

But Anderson saw her one-off concert in a lighter vein, as a tribute to the unifying power of dogs.

"It's really fun - barking in Times Square!" she said.

She put on a first concert for dogs in 2010 at the Sydney Opera House. One major difference in New York: It was around minus 10 deg C.

When the clock neared midnight, a freezing but still chipper Anderson advised her audience: "You can keep barking!"

While many dogs reacted, including New York Police Department German Shepherds invited along with their officers, others stayed silent or looked puzzled.

"I don't think she was terribly culturally enriched," Ms Meghan Daum said of her dog Phoebe. But she said Phoebe seemed relaxed and "didn't get too freaked out".

"I think it's fun. I think everyone had a good sense of humour about it," she added. "I don't think it's the right time of year for it."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2016, with the headline 'Times Square concert for canines'. Print Edition | Subscribe