“Mount Auburn Cemetery: Spring and Autumn Suites” is an album of twelve original compositions inspired by the beautiful Mount Auburn Cemetery of Cambridge, MA, USA. The works were composed by Mount Auburn Cemetery artist-in-residence Mary Bichner, an orchestral composer with the music “superpowers” of perfect pitch and synesthesia (a condition that causes here to “see” splashes of specific colors when she hears their corresponding pitches sounded).
In the first year of her residency, Mary composed twelve new works inspired by Mount Auburn 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. The finished collection consists of a six-movement Spring Suite and a six-movement Autumn Suite that, when played in order, also takes place over the course of a single day (sunrise to sunset).
The suites contain both vocal and instrumental works. Of the voice-based pieces, all but one are musical settings of poems written by poets buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery (Maria White Lowell, James Russell Lowell, Frances Sargent Osgood, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow). The remaining vocal work is a musical setting of a poem by Emily Dickinson who, while not buried at Mount Auburn, is classified by the archives department as one of the cemetery’s Notable Visitors.
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’s new mobile app, so that visitors to the cemetery will be able to experience the music in the setting that inspired it.
Mount Auburn Cemetery was founded in 1831 as the United States’ first rural cemetery. In addition to being a “National Historic Landmark, a botanical garden, an outdoor museum of art and architecture, and an important habitat for urban wildlife”, Mount Auburn is also a strong supporter of the arts. Filmmaker and multi-media artist Roberto Mighty, MFA, the cemetery’s first artist-in-residence, recently launched the online edition of his commissioned work “earth.sky”: a “site-specific, multi-screen digital multimedia installation based on the landscape of the cemetery and the stories of some of the 98,000 people buried there”. Mount Auburn is also home to “A Glimpse Beyond”, an immersive performing arts experience featuring musicians, dancers, and artists that challenges viewers to “reexamine [their] ideas about life and death, joy and sorrow”.
released June 3, 2017
Composed and arranged by Mary Bichner. Conducted by Kristo Kondakçi. Performed by Katharina Giegling (concertmaster), Sonia Deng (violin), Abby Swidler (violin), Christopher McClain (viola I principal, viola soloist), Minjung Chun (viola I), Carrol Lee (viola II principal), Foxman James (viola II), Aron Zelkowicz (cello principal), Nash Tomey (contrabass principal), Arielle Burke (flute), Elizabeth England (oboe), David Angelo (clarinet), Susannah Telsey (bassoon), Evanangelia Leontis (soprano), Mary Bichner (alto), Mali Sastri (tenor), Seth Grondin (bass [vocals]) and Paul Jacobs (piano).
Recorded and engineered by Antonio Oliart Ros at WGBH Studios in Boston, MA. Mixed and mastered by Peter Moore at Palace of Purpose in Malden, MA. Consulting by Xiao’an Li.
Album cover photo by Mount Auburn Cemetery. Album cover design by Bree Harvey.
Commissioned by The Friends of Mount Auburn and Mount Auburn Cemetery.
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