Mrs Lomez never imagined she would see Laurie Anderson in performance, who she’d heard of as a kid growing up in the sticks by watching rage all-night music television (rage, rage, ra-ra-rage, rage, raaaaaage!), the best musical education anyone could ever hope to have. There are few things more disconcerting than being the only person who can hear the answering machine message of O Superman at 3 a.m. ‘Are you there? You don’t know me but I know you.’ Years later at Antony’s Meltdown in London, Mrs Lomez was able to pick up the phone.
Amid the tales of doom and caution, told in a swirl of looped violin and slowed-down evil voice reverb which has the effect of freaking the audience out about the apocalypse that is sure to arrive due to climate change, fucked-up politics, religion, and people not saying what they mean, there was light-heartedness, courtesy of Anderson’s late dog companion, who she had trained to play the piano. On the internet you can find videos of Lolabelle playing freak-out synthesisers, in the footsteps of her pioneering sound artist human companion.
How does a dog hear music? Is it something beautiful, is it rhythmic, melodic? Is it felt as bass vibration in the body? Does she play music out of pleasure or because she was trained? Is obedience a demonstration of love? As a teenage organ player, Mrs Lomez can attest that pleasure from playing music comes only after the first seven years of practice.
Humans, Anderson attests, have much to learn from other animals. From their silence. In death there is no howling or crying, no whining or whimpering, just acceptance. Death is the release of love, she says.
The evening left Mrs Lomez with a few questions: did Darwin really have nightmares about peacocks? Are performance artists more responsible than scientists for the singular, popular, ill interpretation of the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’? Is it all that humans can teach other animals to manipulate a keyboard?