Every now and then a new musical experience suddenly appears in the midst of the wild New York City streets. Luckily, exactly a week after Thanksgiving was one to remember as musicians, actors, medical professionals and simple fans of art came together to celebrate a special project called CarbonWorks. Created by multi-instrumentalist and New York Times best-selling author in health and nutrition, Dr. Neal Barnard, it was to be an evening of fascinating musical exploration. Listeners were given an unusual introduction to an original artistic atmosphere fueled by a fusion of rock, blues, jazz, contemporary and Vietnamese music.
Wandering downtown on a chilly Thursday night was a surprising escape for many listeners who were itching for a change of pace and a way to hold onto the holiday spirit. After walking through the strangely dark streets to The Metrograph Theater, guests were greeted to an immediate scene of frivolity. The well-lit lobby was bustling with activity as people were eager to chat about the upcoming event. Inside the building, an artsy vibe was noted as various creative characters were seen mingling and drinking happily. Already, the room was immensely crowded with a fine mix of old and young fans of music and film. Anticipation was high with a vibrant atmosphere that grew even quickly with each smile and laugh from the guests. Everyone seemed to be in an extremely good mood and enjoyed each other’s company from the start.
Members of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), of which Dr. Barnard is the founder, were leading the charge that night with all proceeds going to the organization. The committee is a research and advocacy non-profit organization to promote preventive medicine, good nutrition, and ethical research. With member signing in, they were prompted to snag some of the free sea salt and olive oil popcorn, vegan hors d’oeuvres and some wine at the bar. For casual fans, they were inclined to marvel at the other famous patrons of the event. The versatile Alec Baldwin and lovely Maggie Q were two of many highlights of the night. Already as they entered, all eyes were drawn to them like magnets.
From the music fandom side of things, blues man Chris Thomas King and the exquisite Italian singer Naif Hérin, who were a part of CarbonWorks, proudly honored Dr. Barnard’s ambitious endeavor all the way through. While Chris proudly discussed his love for the blues genre in his home of Louisiana, he also remained overjoyed to be included in the CarbonWorks experience. “The whole thing is wonderful to be a part of. All of it is using music to heal the mind and body.” As fans would later learn, each bit of the music had a greater motive than just an art form.
Finally, people were encouraged to start taking their seats in theater one. As guests entered the small vaudeville theater, people comfortably sat down in their red velvet seats ready for the entertainment to begin. From the second people entered the theater, that old wood scent was overwhelming and pleasant. On the silver screen, the album artwork of CarbonWorks’ self-titled debut was shown in all its glory. The artwork shows a little girl, Lily, in samurai attire who is holding an unsheathed samurai sword above her head all while smirking to the viewer. Fun fact, Lily was all dressed in the same wardrobe, with sword in hand, in the theater seats among the curious guests.
The lights dimmed and all went to black. A series of previews, including a humorous bit, “The Beets You Really Need,” starring Waka Flocka Flame was shown. In this bit he promoted the ambition for a vegan appeal in his music video for a healthy audience to enjoy. There was also some informational pieces centered around the work of PCRM and their plans for future developments in the medical space. Of course, Mr. Baldwin had his moment to shine when a short clip appeared of him promoting the “The Meal Replacement Bar Replacement Meal,” which garnered many chuckles from the crowd. Finally, a music video clip of one of CarbonWork’s song, Samurai, was introduced with the star, Lily playing her samurai role well along with the hard rocking tunes.
Following the samurai action, the elegant Naif, who stole the show in her red silk gown, took the stage and performed two tunes, Song For An Angel and Aspettando L’Aurora. Her fusion of sultry soul vocals were an interesting pairing with the nature film backdrops behind her. Song For An Angel featured a deer standing strong overlooking a hill. It’s head, antlers and all, moved in slow motion to the reaction of the song and Naif’s gestures towards it. It was immensely surreal. Aspettando L’Aurora simply featured an underwater theme as viewers were to enjoy the glare from the sun reflecting through the waves. When viewers were not transfixed with the cinematography, Naif’s facial expressions provided a passionate alternative. As she sung, she often mimicked the violin or the other string instruments being played. Her performance was classy and gave a heightened sense of culture for the evening. Once she finished her graceful set, Neal came to the stage and presented her with a dazzling bouquet of flowers. From there Lily received a duplicate floral arrangement as she grinned with happiness.
After those videos were complete, Mr. Baldwin was introduced by Dr. Barnard and gave a brief token of gratitude to his medical work and the impact it had left on his own personal health. Apparently, Dr. Barnard was instrumental in the actor’s transition to a new lifestyle that has surely benefited the man going forward. Just watch his recent Saturday Night Live appearances and prepare to laugh. His thoughts were genuine and his presence there a nice surprise for all the guests included. Maggie Q, looking divine as always, also gave her take on the way Neal had helped her in a similar situation. She even went so far to unveil the doctor’s aid to her parents health as well.
From there, Dr. Barnard talked a bit about the importance of a healthy way of living and the ways that people could focus their attention to protecting harmful animal testing. Following that medical vein, Neal introduced a short yet satisfying presentation of Music and the Brain. In this showcase, Dr. Barnard explained the powerful effects of music on the mind in regard to dopamine output. It was both interesting and offered people seeking an alternative state of mind to consider listening to more music.
The musical theme continued with the revelation of CarbonWork’s four piece symphony that was both an unique trip in what seemed to be experimental music play. Each one of the four songs featured a signature musician in each, Chris and Naif being two prime examples. With their introduction to these tunes and their videos, it was worth noting that Neal was somehow playing along in each. Of course, it was all written and orchestrated by the man. However, he looked like he was enjoying a dream state as these masterful musicians provided a foreground to his great musical enterprise. He was along for the ride in every way. Neal also returned to the music and made sure to credit his colleagues who had helped make all this happen, each stood to receive a rambunctious applause.
It was a series of interesting musical elements that evening. Each song, performance and speech were unique in their own and gave the overall experience a fascinating turn. Listeners who left the event most likely look at music and health in a different way. Of course, sharing the room with additional artistic talent is a rare bonus. Give CarbonWorks a listen and go on a journey!
Photo Credit: Lukas Greystone