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After New Year, Times Square goes to dogs
General view of atmosphere at the January Midnight Moment concert for dogs: Heart Of a Dog by Laurie Anderson at Duffy Square on January 4, 2016 in New York City. Noam Galai/Getty Images/AFP.

By: Shaun Tandon

NEW YORK (AFP).- Days after up to a million people crammed into New York's Times Square to ring in 2016, a more local audience had its chance for some midnight entertainment -- dogs.

In a concert that was in equal parts humor and metaphysical reflection, the experimental artist Laurie Anderson put on a show whose target audience was canine.

Dozens of dogs in Times Square howled or barked at sounds only perceptible to their ears, although the hundreds of humans in attendance could also tune in on headphones.

Anderson conceived of Monday night's canine concert to accompany her latest film, "Heart of a Dog," which takes the story of the rat terrier she adopted with her late husband, rock legend Lou Reed, as the basis for a reflection on death and memory.

A three-minute sequence of the film, which was originally commissioned by French-German network Arte and is shortlisted for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, is airing through January just before midnight on some of Times Square's iconic billboards.

The abstract scene delved into Tibetan Buddhist conceptions of the afterlife. But Anderson saw her concert, a one-off in Times Square, in a lighter vein as a tribute to the unifying power of dogs.

"I think more people are sharing dogs these days, because everyone travels so much," she said.

"It's really fun -- barking in Times Square!" she said after the performance in which she set down her electric violin for a dog-friendly segment led by electronic sounds.

Dog lovers unite
Anderson put on a first concert for dogs in 2010 at the Sydney Opera House.

One major difference in New York -- the weather. Anderson, sporting a stocking cap but obliged to play bare-handed, and the crowd withstood dangerous cold of around 15 Fahrenheit (-10 Celsius).

Sherry Dobbin, director of the Times Square Arts group behind the project, said the timing was intentional.

"Considering the film is so much about that time when you're passing from one life into another, it seemed very natural following a huge celebration of the end of one year and bringing in the new year," she said.

When the clock neared midnight and the day January 5, a freezing but still chipper Anderson advised her audience, "You can keep barking!"

Dogs, as well as cats, have significantly wider hearing ranges than humans. For the composition, Anderson chose low-decibel sounds rather than high-frequency noises that could irritate dogs.

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," Meghan Daum said of Phoebe, who is part St. Bernard.

But Daum said that Phoebe seemed relaxed and "didn't get too freaked out."

"I think it's fun. I think everyone had a good sense of humor about it," she said, while adding: "I don't think it's the right time of year for it."

Ami Schrager warmed up her two dogs -- Buttercup, a six-year-old Westie, and Lucas, a nine-year-old toy poodle -- under blankets in a stroller.

Schrager saw the concert as another victory for dog-lovers, after New York recently ended a ban on taking dogs to outdoor restaurants.

"Anything that's dog-friendly I'll go to, even if it's midnight and freezing out," she said.

© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse

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