Passersby might not like the sound of Laurie Anderson’s concert Monday night in Times Square, but that’s because it’s not meant for humans.
Laurie Anderson is a composer, musician, and performance artist who plays the violin and keyboards and sings in a variety of styles. And besides being known for her experimental performances, Anderson is a dog-lover.
Anderson told The New York Times that she got the idea for a dog concert while backstage in 2008 with the cellist Yo-Yo Ma. “I have this fantasy where I look out, and the whole audience is dogs,” she told him. Two years later in 2010, Anderson realized her dream and performed a concert for hundreds of dogs and their owners outside of the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
To make her music canine-friendly, Anderson plays her music from speakers at a low frequency. And after her 2010 performance in Sydney, Anderson got a standing ovation – canine style.
“It was a beautiful sound,” she told the Times. “They barked for five minutes. That was one of the happiest moments of my life.”
Along with avoiding a high frequencies that would shock dogs’ ears, Anderson’s instrumental music style may be naturally attractive to dogs.
“We have a very human tendency to project onto our pets and assume that they will like what we like,” Charles Snowdon, an animal psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told Live Science. “People assume that if they like Mozart, their dog will like Mozart. If they like rock music, they say their dog prefers rock.”
Psychologist Deborah Wells at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, conducted an experiment where she exposed dogs in an animal shelter to different genres of music.
“It is well established that music can influence our moods,” she says. “Classical music, for example, can help to reduce levels of stress … It is now believed that dogs may be as discerning as humans when it comes to musical preference.” Just as classical music has been proven to calm humans, veterinarians and shelter owners are finding the same to be true for man’s best friend.
Through her nonprofit Rescue Animal MP3 Project, veterinarian Dr. Pamela Fisher has put classical-style music in over 1,100 animal shelters.
“It just de-stresses them. They are still happy and wiggly, they just aren’t barking,” Tania Huycke-Phillips, the foster and facilities coordinator at Bay Area Humane Society in Green Bay, Wisconsin, told The Associated Press. “Reducing stress shows off their personalities and they get adopted quicker.”
In her first dog concert since Sydney in 2010, Anderson will be performing at 11:30 p.m. on the red steps of Duffy Square. 350 wireless headphones will be handed out on a first-come-first-served basis so owners can enjoy the music at a human-friendly frequency.
The concert is the January edition of Midnight Moment, a coordinated effort by the sign operators in Times Square to display artists' works on all the billboards each night. Between 11:57 p.m. and 12:00 a.m. through the month of January, a clip of Anderson’s 2015 film "Heart of a Dog," which has been short-listed for an Academy Award, will fill Times Square.
“I love Times Square. It’s a dream. Desire, speed, the explosions of color, patterns, and energy,” Anderson said in a Midnight Moment press release. “Who could have predicted the unraveling dreams of my dog would be magnified up there like this?”