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.


Since 2017, Mary has been collaborating annually with the prestigious Museum of Science, Boston on the groundbreaking “Synesthesia Suite: Live” concert series: an immersive musical event in which live performances of Mary’s compositions (performed by Mary Bichner and Planetary Quartet) are paired with customized 360° full-dome visuals created by the museum’s award-winning planetarium team. The visuals for each piece are directly inspired by Mary’s synesthesia, allowing audience members the unique opportunity to “hear” color and “see” sound just as Mary does when she listens to music. The first edition of the series took place during two sold-out concerts at the Charles Hayden Planetarium on November 30th 2017, and featured the premiere of Mary’s “Synesthesia Suite: Constellations”, a collection of chamber works inspired by constellations found in the New England night sky in spring. For the second edition of the concert series in April 2019, the synesthetic visuals were presented to the audience in an additional exciting and innovative form — a series of entirely new immersive LED-based technologies (including audio-responsive wearables and room illuminators) which were developed especially for “Synesthesia Suite: Live” by the renowned scientists of MIT’s Neoperceptions and Arizona State University’s SciHub, under the direction of theoretical physicists Frank Wilczek (Nobel laureate and Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics) and Nathan Newman (Lamonte H. Lawrence Professor in Solid State Science). A third version of the sold-out series was held in February 2020; and a virtual version of the concert premiered online in June of 2020 as part of the #MOSAtHome Initiative, in partnership with SubSpace Sessions and the Lowell Institute. (More information on this project, including photos and videos from the live events, can be found HERE.)


From 2017-2019, Mary composed “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. A first musical draft of the opera was completed in June 2019, with a second musical draft currently in progress. (More information on the opera can be found on the “Memoirs of Antonina” mini-site right 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 for John J. King’s “The Mementi Mori of Edward Gorey”, a new theatre work inspired by the life and art of the famed author/illustrator (forthcoming); a soprano-and-woodwind-quintet commission for the “Pindrop Sessions” classical music series, presented in partnership with WBGH Boston, WCRB 99.5/Classical Radio Boston, and Aeronaut Brewing Company; 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”.