Artist Update: Mary Bichner

July 28, 2023

Former Artist-in-Residence, Mary Bichner reflects on the trajectory of her career as a composer as well as reminisces about the moments of inspiration she found at Mount Auburn during her residency.

Have you noticed any recurring themes or motifs in your artwork that stem from the influence of your time spent at MAC? If so, could you elaborate on them?

Mount Auburn Cemetery was one of the first commissions I received to create music inspired by specific places – the top of Washington Tower; the lush, flowering vernal pool of Consecration Dell; the interior of Bigelow Chapel streaked with rainbow light from its famous stained-glass windows. Before starting the project, I knew that the compositions would be influenced by the colors found in each location thanks to my synesthesia, but as the project went on I was delighted to discover that the places themselves, as well as the moments in time in which I visited them, also had a big hand in shaping the music.

The piece “Allegro Moderato in Ab” was composed on a crisp autumn afternoon when gusts of wind swirled across the cemetery in cheerful, sudden bursts. Not only did the crimson and yellow leaves decorating the ground inspire the composition’s key (two of the three colors that make up the Ab-major triad), their playful stop-and-start dancing on the breezes also made it into the final piece, especially the passage found in 1:23-2:12 of the Allegro Moderato recording. Translating that experience into music playable by an orchestra was so much fun!

I continue to be commissioned to compose location-inspired works, and thanks to my time at Mount Auburn Cemetery, I now know all of the wonderful things to look and listen for – and to remain open to new possibilities as well!

Can you offer any advice to aspiring artists who are looking to find inspiration from the Cemetery?

If you’re an artist looking for inspiration, Mount Auburn Cemetery is a wonderful place to have a chat with your Muse! I recommend taking an ambling walk through the grounds without any pre-planned path or destinations in mind – you’ll uncover something new around every corner, and with every visit!

You can listen to Mary’s work by visiting our website here: The Spring & Autumn Suites are available wherever you listen to music. Also be sure to check out Mary’s website here to support her latest projects: Mary will be returning to the cemetery for an Artist Showcase this September. Tickets coming soon.

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