For years, Mark Bensette Aux Bois, Nouveau Papillon’s guitarist, harpist, and keyboardist had wanted to coordinate his band’s songs to visuals after he had witnessed a Pink Floyd laser show.
“The ambient nature of the new age music we thought would be a good fit to compliment a visual presentation within the planetarium,” said band manager Ed Capps. “It was just a matter of visualizing the content.”
This idea turned into “Visionsphere,” the collaboration between the international music of Nouveau Papillon and the Mesa Community College (MCC) Planetarium.
Graphics from local artists will be projected against the planetarium’s sphere to songs from the album, “Enchantment Blooms,” produced in 2017 and nominated for album of the year by One World Radio, a leading online radio stream in Europe.
“Myself and Mark Bensette put most of the graphics together,” said Capps. After deciding on these graphics, planetarium director and astronomy faculty Dr. Kevin Healy then programmed the images into the planetarium’s software. “It was about a 8-9 month process to trial and error as to what would work and what wouldn’t,” said Capps. “What needed to be changed in order to make it work. The biggest challenge was getting normal imagery and graphics and incorporating them into a spherical 360-degree image.”
“We premiered the show last spring, and now we have five additional dates this fall,” said Dr. Healy who also explained a visual description of Visionsphere for those who missed the spring shows. “In the course of the song’s length, variety of visuals play on the dome,” said Healy, “and then, as the song wraps up, a portal appears to introduce the next song.”
Dr. Healy additionally said that proceeds from Visionsphere will help the planetarium produce and develop more shows. The revenue will help hire special effects artists as well as computing power for animations.
Nouveau Papillon is a Phoenix-based band, formed in 2016, with two members, Mark Bensette and Hildi Thelen. Hildi plays custom Native American flutes and percussion.
Visionsphere will be at the Mesa Community College Planetarium at 1833 W. Southern Ave Mesa, AZ 85202, Building PS 15. Shows start at 7 p.m. “Tranquil Soundscapes” will be a new show debuting on Sept. 21. More dates will be listed online for both shows in October, November, and December.
A digital download of “Enchantment Blooms” will be available to those who purchase tickets for $20 through Purple Pass.