3-Minute Interview: Lisa Spector

The Half Moon Bay resident and concert pianist, along with two colleagues, developed “Through a Dog’s Ear,” a book and CD of music designed to calm anxious dogs, which were released March 1. A private concert for dogs and their human companions by Spector will be auctioned off at the San Francisco SPCA Bark and Whine Ball tonight.

How did this project start? I’m a concert pianist and an enormous dog lover, and about five years ago or so I started becoming aware of how the dogs in my care would react to the sounds I was playing on the piano.

Give us an example. I was puppy-sitting a 9-month-old, 90-pound dog named Hank. As soon as I started playing the piano, he’d be lying down within a minute. Around that time I went to a seminar that Joshua Leeds was teaching on psycho-acoustics, about how the music affects the human nervous system. I approached him with this idea of creating this music especially for dogs.

How do you go about composing music for dogs? We tested four kinds of classical music on dogs. The music ranged from slow piano music to faster classical music with a trio of cello, oboe and piano. We found the slower, simplified piano music was profoundly more effective at calming dogs.

What’s the response been? It’s been overwhelming. I’ve gotten letters saying, “My neighbors thank you as much as I do because my dog’s finally stopped barking.”

Have you done a doggie concert before? I did one in my home earlier this week. I brought 11 dogs into my living room — not exactly the most natural place for them — but they all just flopped over when I was playing. It was just the greatest thing.

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