Biography


Mary Bichner is an award-winning orchestral composer with the bizarre musical superpowers of perfect pitch (the ability to recognize notes and chords by name upon hearing them played) and synesthesia (a neurological condition that causes Mary to “see” splashes of specific colors when she hears their corresponding pitches sounded). Called a “musical genius” by CBS News, and invited to Harvard University’s prestigious neuroscience lab to be studied for her brain’s unusual wiring, Mary creates richly-colored compositions that delight classical enthusiasts and indie-pop rockers alike.


At present, Mary is in the process of composing “The Memoirs of Antonina”, a new three-act orchestral opera inspired by Marie Antoinette of France. Taking its name from a slanderous 18th-century tract about the queen’s rumored exploits and indiscretions, “The Memoirs of Antonina” focuses on the final years of Marie Antoinette’s life, and pits two versions of the queen (performed by two different singers) against one another: the imagined breezy libertine derided by revolutionary pamphleteers, and the distraught historical figure determined to reclaim her kingdom and her reputation. Three recitatives and five arias from the opera received their piano/vocal premiere during a sold-out preview concert at Central Square Theater of Cambridge, MA, USA on September 2nd 2018, as part of The Nora Theatre Company’s emerging artists workshop series. Mary will continue working on the opera during her composer residency at The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of Taos, NM, USA from September through December of 2018. (More information on the opera can be found on the “Memoirs of Antonina” mini-site right HERE. )


In the autumn of 2017, Mary collaborated with The Museum of Science, Boston for the premiere of “Synesthesia Suite: Constellations”, a new collection of chamber works inspired by the New England night sky in spring. The suite was performed live in concert by Mary Bichner and Planetary Quartet during two sold-out concerts at the Charles Hayden Planetarium on November 30th 2017. The performances were accompanied by customized synesthesia-inspired dome visuals created by the museum’s award-winning planetarium team, giving audience members the unique opportunity to “hear” color and “see” sound just as Mary does when she listens to music. (Photos from this project can be found HERE, and 360° videos from the project can be found HERE.)


From April 2016 to November 2017, Mary served as composer-in-residence at the beautiful Mount Auburn Cemetery of Cambridge and Watertown, MA, USA. In the first year of her residency, Mary composed twelve new works inspired by the cemetery’s breathtaking landscape and landmarks, using her sound­-to­-color synesthesia to select the musical components that best “match” the natural color palette of each location at different times of year. In January of 2017, the works were recorded by a 19-piece chamber orchestra at WGBH Studios of Boston MA, and were released online as a digital album on June 3rd 2017. The tracks are also featured in Mount Auburn Cemetery’s new mobile app, allowing visitors to the cemetery to experience the music in the setting that inspired it. (View a brief documentary of this project HERE.)


Other noted commissions and collaborations include serving as composer-in-residence at The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico for September-December 2018; a commission from celebrated wind quintet Vento Chiaro for their “Boston Project” concert series; serving as composer-in-residence at Marble House Project of Dorset, VT, USA for May 2016; arranging and conducting strings for 30 Seconds to Mars’ MTV Unplugged appearance; numerous collaborations with the illustrious Vitamin String Quartet (including a placement on ABC’s Modern Family); musical collaborations with professional theatre companies including The Nora Theatre Company [AEA], Wheelock Family Theatre [AEA], and Liars & Believers; and more.


Past awards include receiving a 2017 Iguana Music Fund Grant, receiving a 2014 Somerville Arts Council Music Fellowship Grant, being named the SAC Somerville Artist of the Month for March 2014, and receiving a 2014 San Diego Film Award for her musical score of the short film, “Just Desserts”.