Setting the Stage: Times Square at New Year’s Eve
A closer look at the spectacle of Times Square on December 31st.
In 1904, the owners of One Times Square assembled parties of friends and co-workers on the rooftop of their building to ring in the New Year. Three years later, in 1907, the first ceremony of lowering the Ball was held in the iconic heart of Manhattan. Tomorrow night, over a century later and in the face of biting cold and ungodly congestion, the tradition continues.
New Year’s Eve throws Times Square into the spotlight as the single point upon which the urban attention and media distribution of the world focuses as a beacon of celebration for the holiday. The city center becomes a international center, and, despite the performances and A-list appearances, it will be the sea of people gathered along Broadway and Seventh Avenue who are the true stars of the show.
They will make the stage of New Year’s Eve come alive and millions of eyes across America will watch the last few seconds of 2013 tick away with them, wishing they stood beneath the downpour of confetti and flashing lights. They are why, for those last ten seconds of the previous year, Times Square becomes the center of the universe. The people.
Paris has fashion. Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe encompass the city of London. St. Peter’s Square has been the cornerstone of Rome for centuries, as with the Acropolis in Athens. But in New York, the energy of the people within provide the city with its most famous trademark. New York City is not the capital of the United States, nor even the State, itself. The people – regardless of personality or social strata – are the character of the town that has sealed its renown.
The official event lineup features live performances such as Blondie, Miley Cyrus, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis; John Lennon’s Imagine, to be performed by Melissa Etheridge, is another beloved classic. Traditional Chinese performances featuring Kung Fu and a colorful fan dance will kick off the festivities early in the evening. The celebration also will be highlighted with exclusive trailers and clips featuring views of Times Square and the surrounding neighborhood.
The backdrop for the festivities tomorrow night will consist of over a hundred buildings coated “from the crown to the toe top full” of neon advertisements and billboards. Thousands of LED lights illuminate Times Square, making it a fully-functional, 24/7 commercial advertising theme park of giant, electronic ad/art that render the buildings they cover completely unidentifiable. Even in “ordinary time”, the buildings along Times Square operate as embodiments of virtual information, carrying very little relativity to the tenants within as opposed to the advertisements assigned to them. The immersive experience of Times Square at New Year’s Eve, as well as the live recording of the night’s events, create blissful accomplices of those assembled beneath the world’s most spectacular advertising strategy.
However, another layer of the visual and perceptual experience of New Year’s Eve at Times Square must be accounted for – the generation of advertisements originating directly from national television networks which are delivered into the living rooms of viewers throughout America and beyond. The messages transmitted through pixels and sound-bytes are intermingled with the physical world and surround the crowds beneath the crystal ball, those gathered around a television at home, or at their local watering hole, blocks away from the hub of it all.
Tomorrow night, Times Square will transform even more potently into a vortex of action and movement for its New Year’s Eve celebration. Technicians and cameramen from New York networks synchronize the activities of the Square among the people, upon the stages, and from the microphones of honored speakers who preside over the event. The reporters and cameramen who supply video feed will move rapidly and efficiently through the crowds, engaging with them in repetitious spurts of gratitude and celebration. The snapshots of the crowds, when viewed remotely, provide the international audiences with the visual representation of their own emotions: smiling, static faces, undulating hands and arms, cameras held high, holiday truisms and well-wishes.
The phones in the hands of these representatives feed parallel worlds of messaging and communication systems; there are tens of thousands of smart phones, twitter networks, and Facebook accounts documenting the event from innumerable personal perspectives. The various elements that create the unique atmosphere of Times Square on New Year’s Eve will change and evolve throughout the progress of the night and its proximity to the sixty-second descent of the Ball at 11:59pm on December 31, 2013.
The only element of permanence in the night, other than the overwhelming joy and hopefulness of a population at the start of a new year, is the backdrop of the city, the enveloping architecture, and the direct flow of communication and advertisement for the multimillion vieweres throughout the world following and celebrating the event from the comfort of their homes.