Laurie Anderson debuts computer music for dogs

Avant-garde composer Laurie Anderson has performed her most bizarre work to date at Sydney Opera House today – a piece of computer-generated 'Music for Dogs'.

Self-confessed "techno geek" Anderson, 63, most famous in the UK for her 1980s hit O Superman, performed the 20-minute piece in front of a drooling audience of canines.

The work consists of electronic sounds that are imperceptible to human ears, along with a backdrop of sampled whale noises, whistles and thumping beats.

Anderson has a history of creating technological musical oddities. In 1977, she invented a violin with a bow made from magnetic audio tape instead of horsehair. The oddball composer became US space agency NASA's first ever artist in residence in 2003.

Anderson says she regularly performs music for rat terrier Lollabelle, the pooch she owns with her husband, rock icon Lou Reed, who she married in 2008 after the pair got together in the late 1990s.

The couple are co-curating this year's Vivid arts and music festival in Sydney, taking over from fellow electronic music experimentalist Brian Eno.

The inspiration for Anderson's latest piece came after a conversation Anderson had with acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

"We thought, 'Wouldn't it be great if you're playing a concert and you look out and everyone's a dog?'" Anderson told a reporter from Associated Press. "So I thought if I ever get a chance to do that, I'm gonna do it. And today was it. So this is like a highlight of my life."

Anderson's original idea was to create a piece that was entirely pitched above the range of human hearing, for dogs' ears only – but she eventually decided to include swanee whistles and other audible sounds so that the pooches' human owners could join in the fun.

Many canines present were said to have barked and wagged their tails with glee, the high-pitched cacophony working some into a frenzy.

Not all audience members were quite so impressed, though.

One patron leaving the event was asked how they felt after the performance.

"Ruff," came the answer.