James Hood’s ‘Mesmerica’

Show Comes To Vanderbilt Planetarium

Beginning on Jan. 6, Long Islanders had their chance to escape reality by stepping into the Vanderbilt Museum and Reichert Planetarium in East Northport.  Long Island Weekly caught up with the musical artist behind the show, James Hood.

Mesmerica is being shown at the Vanderbilt Planetarium.

First, what is “Mesmerica?”
According to its website, it is a “visual music journey that brings the mesmerizing music of Grammy-nominated composer and percussionist James Hood together with visually-hypnotic, 3D animated art curated from artists around the world, creating an immersive experience designed to transcend time, relax, soothe, and stimulate your mind and senses.”
One of the instruments Hood plays is the hand pan, and the music in “Mesmerica” is constructed around that instrument. Hood said he is fascinated by the instrument’s ability to fill a room with a relaxing energy.
“The music goes well with the intention of the show, which is to give people an experience of peace within themselves without ascribing it to any meaning besides what we do as humans, to lose track of time when we’re enjoying ourselves,” Hood said.
The “Mesmerica” show started in 2019, and was playing in about 27 planetariums when the pandemic started. Hood said the show went dark for two years, and began showing again in October.
“‘Mesmerica,’ the word is a play on words between the old fashioned word for mesmerized, and obviously America,” Hood, of Los Angeles said. “My mission is to give people an opportunity to experience the spaciousness that’s inside their mind that people who can meditate say is so wonderful, that feeling.”
And, Hood explained, planetariums are the perfect spaces for these shows, because with high definition, three-dimensional images coming his way, he finds he can sit still for a long time without a single thought entering his mind. Hood first became interested in planetariums when he attended shows there and was inspired by the endless possibilities of the dome.
“We are transcendent beings that lose track of time whenever we’re enjoying ourselves,” Hood said. “And we’ll sit and watch a sunset without saying anything for a long time and in some ways, this is an experience a bit like that, to just be overwhelmed with the visual and musical program that you actually give the meaning to.”
There’s flexibility in this show, as each audience member can personalize their experience with it.
“It meets you wherever you are,” Hood said. “But it doesn’t give you a narrative to lock your logical mind onto… But it does feel like you’re going on a journey and you’re making it up as you go along in a lot of ways. But you only go as far as you want. So in some ways, you are the star… because everyone’s going to meet it differently.”

About Hood’s artistry
Hood was formerly a rock drummer in London. He played for various groups, including The Pretenders. But then, Hood decided to hang up his drum sticks and become a composer. “It was a great idea, but not the easiest thing to do when you don’t know how to play any instrument other than the drums,” Hood said. “I knew percussion and rhythm, but I had a head full of music. The computer came along to enable me to create composition, because I was able to make a lot of mistakes and learn.”
Hood moved to the United Stated after the millennium, feeling that America would be the right place for Hood’s next step in his musical journey.
“As it turns out, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do anywhere else,” Hood said.
To get $12 tickets for “Mesmerica” at the Vanderbilt Museum and Reichert Planetarium, visit tickets.mesmerica.com.

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