When Laurie Anderson reprises her Concert for Dogs — and people who love dogs — at East Hampton’s LongHouse Reserve on Saturday, she’ll be carrying on for a family member who’s no longer with her.
That would be her four-legged friend, Lolabelle. “When she was getting old,” Anderson recalls in an interview, “she went blind. Her trainer” — counterintuitively — “taught her to paint. Then we taught her to play piano on a keyboard on the floor.” Lolabelle even recorded a Christmas album, barking for percussive effect. “It was pretty good,” Anderson adds in a brief critique. Soon Lola was giving benefit concerts for animals and animal rights. Saturday’s proceeds are to be shared with ARF (Animal Rescue Fund).
Anderson — artist, author, musician and filmmaker — says she once told cellist Yo-Yo Ma about her “fantasy” of doing concerts for dogs. “ ‘Are you kidding? I had the same fantasy,’ ” she recalls him saying. (Anderson, who plays violin, will be accompanied by cellist Rubin Kodheli at LongHouse.) Now, of course, she plays for dogs without Lola at her side, beginning in Times Square on a frigid January day this year. Since then, she’s played for canines in Sydney and in an appearance on Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show.”
KEEPING IT AUDIBLE
Do people in the audience hear all the notes? “I wouldn’t really know what would happen if you play those . . . frequencies,” Anderson says. “It might freak them out. So I try to stay away from that.”
Anderson’s first Concert for Dogs followed completion of her 2015 HBO documentary “Heart of a Dog” in which she addressed her relationship with Lola as well as death. In recent years ending in 2013, she lost her husband, Lou Reed, to whom she dedicated the film, her mother and Lola. (The film screens at Guild Hall, East Hampton, 8 p.m. Thursday.)
“Dogs understand empathy,” Anderson says, “feeling sad for someone without actually being sad yourself.” In the film, she says Lola learned empathy while living with her former owners, a divorcing couple and the sad little boy who was their son.
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Like most rat terriers, Lola knew instinctively to protect her turf. Anderson says she sensed Lola’s bewilderment on a trip to the beach after 9/11. (Living near the site of the devastation, “We just had to get away.”) During a walk they took toward the ocean, hawks circled overhead and dove toward them before finding that Lola was too big a prey for them. “Now Lola realized that things would never be the same, having to protect from the air, too,” Anderson recalls.
LongHouse’s outdoor amphitheater is an ideal concert venue for dogs. “They can survey what’s happening,” Anderson says. The program runs about 30 minutes. So arrive early or stick around for the pups-and-people reception on the lush grounds. Enjoy the sculpture gardens, featuring, among many other pieces, Larry Rivers’ provocative “Legs” and Yoko Ono’s giant chessboard. Make sure your dog is respectful of the art.