Please wait
Tagged with: Performance, Events, Whitney News, Community

What does it mean to ring
in the New Year?

December 31, 2015 marked the end of the Whitney’s first calendar year in its new building. It was also a notable moment for sound experimentalist Matana Roberts, who over the past year has been engaged in a series of site-specific performances in the Whitney’s galleries and performance spaces. On New Year’s Eve, she concluded the series by debuting a score that she composed during those open-ended explorations. red, white and blue(s) responded to the building and the Museum's inaugural exhibition, America Is Hard to See, and also drew inspiration from Archibald Motley's work, currently on view on the eighth floor.

Throughout the night, artists, musicians, and attendees shared their reflections on what it means to ring in a new year. Read their thoughts and resolutions below. 

Members of the audience prepare to ring in a new year. Photograph © Paula Court.

“I think you can look at the new year as a continuation and a beginning. It’s just a demarcation in your life; time was before, and time is moving forward. You reflect on everything that happened in the past year, the good and the bad, and plan for the next year. As musicians, we’re always planning six months to a year ahead in terms of touring, recording, and gigs, so we’re used to that. 

Most of us do not do typical New Year’s gigs—I haven’t done one in about twenty years—but Matana has us all spending time together, getting to play some crazy music to mark the end of the year with people we really like and enjoy playing with. It’s fantastic. I think music, or art, is always an oasis. That is what art is for: to remind us that there’s something bigger than ourselves out here.”
Steve Swell, trombonist, composer and educator

Matana Roberts and her ensemble perform. Photograph © Paula Court.

“It’s a good milestone, an opportunity to not keep dragging things, and maybe start over. My family is from Ecuador, and in Guayaquil they make a stuffed dummy, a life-size human figure, and they fill it with old clothes and then with fireworks, and at midnight they pour kerosene on it, and they set it on fire. That represents the old year, ‘Año Viejo.’ Viejo means ‘old man,’ so you burn the old man to bring in the new year. I always liked that.”
—Roberto Carlos Lange/Helado Negro, musician and vocalist
@HeladoNegro

Jace Clayton (dj Rupture) spins music in front of a work by Matana Roberts featured as part of red, white, blue(s). Photograph © Paula Court.

“New Year’s Eve is a messy holiday. It’s the one night many people feel compelled to give themselves a reason to party, and the streets are filled with people. I find this social compulsion to go out and celebrate New Year’s sort of distasteful, even though as a DJ, it’s often a night when I’m working. 

If you scrape away the cynicism, there’s this idealist [thinking]: it’s an amazing night when you get together and celebrate. But wouldn’t it be interesting if that night were distributed more widely? If this notion of celebration and masquerade, asking how personal transformation can begin, wasn’t only confined to December 31?

All sorts of Caribbean and African diasporic carnival traditions go on for days. You’re in it long enough to let it seep into you fully. It’s less, ‘That was a crazy night last night,’ and more, ‘two and a half days in the carnival, and I’m here in Port-Au-Prince, and its madness.’

I actually feel like [tonight’s celebration] is an oasis. New Year’s can be such a chore, so to have really amazing musicians like Matana, and all of the people in her ensemble—that’s kind of wonderful.”
—Jace Clayton (DJ/rupture), DJ, artist, and writer
@djrupture

Musician Me’Shell NdegéOcello performs as a member of Matana Roberts’s New Year’s Eve 12tet. Photograph © Paula Court.

“I must admit I usually sleep through midnight. It’s never been a holiday that I celebrated, but the moment Matana called me, I realized this was an incredible way to ring in the new year: to be in such a prestigious space, such a beautiful, enticing space—and to be able to express myself freely. I feel like it’s the beginning of how I want to live the rest of my life, if that doesn’t sound too grandiose: to be able to improvise a little more freely in life and in music.”
—Me’Shell NdegéOcello, bassist, singer-songwriter, and vocalist
@OfficialMeshell

Matana Roberts, red white and blue(s), December 31, 2015, at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Photograph © Paula Court.

“Set your intentions for the next twelve months, and do it with joy, and with grace, and with focus. It’s a sober time, a meditation. Figuring out what’s coming up, and what we’re going to do next.

Today we’re ending the sixth day of Kwanzaa, and the meditation for the sixth day of Kwanzaa is creativity. What a perfect way to celebrate that as well—here, doing such a creative thing."
—Mazz Swift, violinist, vox, freestyle composition artist
@MazzMuse

Matana Roberts, red white and blue(s), December 31, 2015, at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Photograph © Paula Court.

“New Year’s resolutions can have a negative connotation, needing to force a change. This year, I thought about some of my favorite things that happened. I felt like that was a way to focus more on the positive.

I’m from New York—I’ve lived 33 of my 39 years here—and I’ve never once spent a New Year’s Eve in Manhattan. Normally this is a place I would avoid. But I was thinking about how much I enjoy playing the viola and, as cheesy as that sounds, I’m excited that I’m spending New Year’s playing the viola—it’s pretty much my left arm."
Jessica Pavone, violist and composer

Richard Berger with Matana Roberts before the performance begins. Photograph © Paula Court.

“It’s a dual answer. This is the end of the year and the beginning of a new year, and that’s important. I think it’s been a very difficult year for many people. 

The other side of it is: I’m an existentialist, and I live in the moment. Whatever happened before doesn’t matter, and I don’t know what’s going to happen next. In the next few minutes, there will be a new year, but it’ll just be another moment in time.”
—Richard Berger

The crowd mingles after midnight. Photograph © Paula Court.

“It’s a way to take stock of the year that you had, look to the future, and confirm more of the good stuff—to enjoy a moment of optimism and excitement, hopefully with people you love. 

It’s been really inspiring to work with Matana again. We’ve been working together for many years. It’s a great excuse to get us all together, and hang out and share stories, and take stock.”
Tomas Fujiwara, drummer and composer

Matana Roberts, red white and blue(s), December 31, 2015, at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Photograph © Paula Court.

“This past year has been so damning. It’s as if we’re going backwards a little bit before we can go forwards again, or as if the idea of remembrance has been forgotten. We’ve forgotten that we’ve already been in this zone, and maybe we don’t remember because there’s not enough representation of those ideas and those moments that have already happened. I think about that a lot, and I try to process it in this work, and it was really important to do it here. 

This institution is such a pantheon of American-ness in a way that I find so meaningful. To be able to work in this [theater] space, and then just go and look in the galleries, and to be reminded of certain people, is really something.

What I was trying to do tonight was create these blends, in terms of the improvisatory stuff mixed in with the more graphic, and the western notation. It’s very much what Archibald Motley’s paintings are like. The work bleeds sound. There’s so much music in the colors it’s crazy. The palettes he chooses are such that the colors blend, but they’re so bright and vibrant. He paints the way I like to make music, and I wouldn’t have had a full understanding of that, if it hadn’t have been for this exhibition. To see his paintings up close like that, and to be able to spend time was really special.“
—Matana Roberts, sound experimentalist, composer, and improviser

In the first moments of 2016, the crowd joined Roberts and Jace Clayton (DJ/rupture) for a joyous rendition of “Auld Lang Syne,” Robert Burns’s classic poetic folk song about friendship and rememberance. Watch a clip of the celebration below. 

At the end of the Whitney’s first calendar year in its new building, sound experimentalist, composer, and improviser Matana Roberts returned to the Museum for red, white and blue(s), a special ensemble performance and celebration event. At midnight, artists, musicians, and attendees joined Roberts and Jace Clayton (DJ/rupture) for a rendition of “Auld Lang Syne.”

ALL STORIES

Human Interest: Martha Rosler on Susan Meiselas
Human Interest: Martha Rosler on Susan Meiselas
Exhibitions
Human Interest: Robert Buck on Georgia O’Keeffe
Human Interest: Robert Buck on Georgia O’Keeffe
Exhibitions
Human Interest: Scott Rothkopf on Jasper Johns
Human Interest: Scott Rothkopf on Jasper Johns
Exhibitions
Human Interest: Judith Bernstein on Urs Fischer
Human Interest: Judith Bernstein on Urs Fischer
Exhibitions
Human Interest: Kalup Linzy on Duane Hanson
Human Interest: Kalup Linzy on Duane Hanson
Exhibitions
Share Your #WhitneyPortraits
Share Your #WhitneyPortraits
Exhibitions
Human Interest: Mathew Cerletty on Jean-Michel Basquiat
Human Interest: Mathew Cerletty on Jean-Michel Basquiat
Exhibitions
Human Interest: K8 Hardy on Sturtevant
Human Interest: K8 Hardy on Sturtevant
Exhibitions
Human Interest: Byron Kim on Avery Singer
Human Interest: Byron Kim on Avery Singer
Exhibitions
Human Interest: Martha Wilson on John Coplans
Human Interest: Martha Wilson on John Coplans
Exhibitions
Human Interest: Jared Bark on John D. Graham
Human Interest: Jared Bark on John D. Graham
Exhibitions
Human Interest: Barkley Hendricks on Alice Neel
Human Interest: Barkley Hendricks on Alice Neel
Exhibitions
Human Interest: Artists Discuss Whitney Portraits
Human Interest: Artists Discuss Whitney Portraits
Exhibitions
Artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby On Her Billboard Project, <i>Before Now After</i>
Artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby On Her Billboard Project, Before Now After
Exhibitions
Preserving Privacy:<br>On the State of Surveillance
Preserving Privacy:
On the State of Surveillance

Exhibitions
The Whitney Beekeepers
The Whitney Beekeepers
Behind the Scenes
Beyond Documentation: Davarian Baldwin on Archibald Motley’s Gettin’ Religion
Beyond Documentation: Davarian Baldwin on Archibald Motley’s Gettin’ Religion
Whitney News
What does it mean to ring<br> in the New Year?
What does it mean to ring
in the New Year?

Whitney News
Frank Stella’s Paintings Inspire a Giant Marble Run
Frank Stella’s Paintings Inspire a Giant Marble Run
Behind the Scenes
How to Install a Two-Ton Star
How to Install a Two-Ton Star
Behind the Scenes
What Is Your White Whale?
What Is Your White Whale?
Whitney News
Q&A with Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff:<br>New Theater in a New Context
Q&A with Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff:
New Theater in a New Context

Exhibitions
High Pressure Repairs:<br>Restoring the Player Piano for Conlon Nancarrow
High Pressure Repairs:
Restoring the Player Piano for Conlon Nancarrow

Behind the Scenes
A Guide to Late Summer Nights at the Whitney
A Guide to Late Summer Nights at the Whitney
The New Whitney
The Player Piano in Print
The Player Piano in Print
Exhibitions
Whitney Stories Video:<br>Adam Weinberg
Whitney Stories Video:
Adam Weinberg

The New Whitney
Whitney Stories Video:<br>Donna De Salvo
Whitney Stories Video:
Donna De Salvo

The New Whitney
Whitney Stories Video:<br>Fiona Donovan
Whitney Stories Video:
Fiona Donovan

The New Whitney
Whitney Stories Video:<br>Sarah Michelson
Whitney Stories Video:
Sarah Michelson

The New Whitney
Whitney Stories Video:<br>Jay Sanders
Whitney Stories Video:
Jay Sanders

The New Whitney
Closing Time Uptown: Snapshots from the Whitney’s Final Night on Madison Avenue
Closing Time Uptown: Snapshots from the Whitney’s Final Night on Madison Avenue
Whitney News
Pinch Points: Joshua Rosenblatt on Installing Art, Uptown and Downtown
Pinch Points: Joshua Rosenblatt on Installing Art, Uptown and Downtown
Behind the Scenes
Whitney Stories Video:<br>Jeff Koons
Whitney Stories Video:
Jeff Koons

Exhibitions
Scott Rothkopf on Planning Jeff Koons: A Retrospective
Scott Rothkopf on Planning Jeff Koons: A Retrospective
Exhibitions
Interview: Kassel Jaeger and Akira Rabelais
Interview: Kassel Jaeger and Akira Rabelais
Behind the Scenes
Whitney Stories Video:<br>Christine Sun Kim
Whitney Stories Video:
Christine Sun Kim

The New Whitney
American Legends: Common Threads across Generations
American Legends: Common Threads across Generations
Exhibitions
Whitney Stories Video:<br>Cory Arcangel
Whitney Stories Video:
Cory Arcangel

The New Whitney
Interview: Flawless Sabrina, Zackary Drucker, and Elisabeth Sherman
Interview: Flawless Sabrina, Zackary Drucker, and Elisabeth Sherman
Exhibitions
Tony Tasset Opens Up the Artist List
Tony Tasset Opens Up the Artist List
Exhibitions
Whitney Stories Video:<br>Carter Foster
Whitney Stories Video:
Carter Foster

The New Whitney
Spring at the New Building Site: Swimming in the City
Spring at the New Building Site: Swimming in the City
The New Whitney
Whitney Stories Video:</br>Vincent Punch
Whitney Stories Video:
Vincent Punch

The New Whitney
Q&AWith the 2014 Whitney Biennial Curators: Part Three
Q&AWith the 2014 Whitney Biennial Curators: Part Three
Exhibitions
Q&A With the 2014 Whitney Biennial Curators: Part Two
Q&A With the 2014 Whitney Biennial Curators: Part Two
Exhibitions
Two of the Whitney’s Hoppers Keep the President Company in the Oval Office
Two of the Whitney’s Hoppers Keep the President Company in the Oval Office
Whitney News
Whitney Stories Video:<br>Renzo Piano
Whitney Stories Video:
Renzo Piano

The New Whitney
Q&A with the 2014 Whitney Biennial Curators: Part One
Q&A with the 2014 Whitney Biennial Curators: Part One
Exhibitions
In Memory: <br>Cecil Weekes, 1956-2013
In Memory:
Cecil Weekes, 1956-2013

Behind the Scenes
Whitney Stories Video:</br>Larissa Gentile
Whitney Stories Video:
Larissa Gentile

The New Whitney
“Am I As Much As Being Seen?” Fred Wilson Collaborates with Whitney Teens
“Am I As Much As Being Seen?” Fred Wilson Collaborates with Whitney Teens
Behind the Scenes
Whitney Stories Video: Fred Wilson
Whitney Stories Video: Fred Wilson
The New Whitney
Construction Continues on the Future Whitney
Construction Continues on the Future Whitney
The New Whitney
Exploring the Legacy of the Meatpacking District
Exploring the Legacy of the Meatpacking District
The New Whitney
Raising Spirits
Raising Spirits
Behind the Scenes

Behind the Whitney Stories Video Series
Behind the Scenes
A Space Without Walls: T.J. Wilcox’s Studio, Photographed by Marco Anelli
A Space Without Walls: T.J. Wilcox’s Studio, Photographed by Marco Anelli
Exhibitions
Welcome to Whitney Stories
Welcome to Whitney Stories
Whitney News
Conserving Franz Kline’s Mahoning
Conserving Franz Kline’s Mahoning
Behind the Scenes
Whitney Stories Video: Carol Mancusi-Ungaro
Whitney Stories Video: Carol Mancusi-Ungaro
The New Whitney
The Future Whitney In Progress
The Future Whitney In Progress
The New Whitney
Vlogging About Art: The Whitney Video Blog Project
Vlogging About Art: The Whitney Video Blog Project
Whitney News
Words on Walls: A Conversation with Tom Black
Words on Walls: A Conversation with Tom Black
Behind the Scenes
Cubes and Anarchy: An Installation
Cubes and Anarchy: An Installation
Exhibitions
Picturing Progress: Building the Future Whitney
Picturing Progress: Building the Future Whitney
The New Whitney
The Whitney Does D.I.Y. With Desert Island Comics
The Whitney Does D.I.Y. With Desert Island Comics
Whitney News
Mapping the Whitney in New York City
Mapping the Whitney in New York City
History of the Whitney
Breaking Ground
Breaking Ground
The New Whitney
Into the Future with <span class="caps">CHERYL</span>
Into the Future with CHERYL
Exhibitions
Choreographing Community
Choreographing Community
Whitney News
Cory Arcangel Re-Blogs the Internet
Cory Arcangel Re-Blogs the Internet
Behind the Scenes