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Artist with Synesthesia Sees Colors in Music and Paints 11 World Famous Songs


Melissa McCracken is a woman that can be considered both blessed and cursed. She grew up with a peculiar neurological condition called synesthesia that allowed her see colors where other people heard sounds. As surreal as it may sound, that is actually possible! Melissa belongs to the rare 4% of population that can see music this way. She’s also among the few people that can also paint what they see. Melissa’s form of synesthesia is called chromesthesia. This means that when listening to music colors come to Melissa involuntarily, in a spontaneous way. Here are 11 artworks inspired by various world famous songs. Can you guess the name just by looking at the picture?



Melissa didn’t realize her condition was something unusual until high school, where she took a psychology class. She thought it was completely normal to perceive music as color and confused her friends on various occasions talking about an ‘orange’ ringtone that would go so well with her blue phone.



David Bowie, “Life on Mars”



Synesthesia is not hallucinogenic and it doesn’t cloud Melissa’s vision in any way. Although it does help to visualize colors better when she closes her eyes. Other than that this condition doesn’t interfere with her sight, it works just like imagination.



Prince, “Joy in Repetition”

Melissa soon realized that people were interested in her condition and the way it manifested, so she decided to try and paint the colors she saw. It all came naturally to her as color was the easiest way to express herself. She remembered significant moments from her life and music that associated with them – and began painting!



Radiohead, “All I Need.”



The artist admits that certain genres look ‘prettier’ than others. For example, she rarely paints country songs because they are all in muted browns, whereas funk is all bright and saturated with all the instruments and fun melodies. She even sees some instruments in a certain way, like guitars tend to manifest into angled strokes of golden color and pianos are kind of jerky because of the chords.



Iron & Wine, “Boy with a Coin.”

Another amazing fact is that songs always look the same to Melissa. Unless she notices something she hasn’t before, a base line for example, the colors in her head will be exactly the same. Of course, she wouldn’t be able to paint them the same way because you can’t control paint splatter.



Bach, “Cello Suite No. 1.”



It’s interesting that synesthetes don’t see same colors in the songs they listen to. When Melissa painted the song by Jimi Hendrix with another girl who had synesthesia, the end result was completely different.



Radiohead, “Karma Police.”

As an artist, Melissa likes to stay true to herself and paints only the songs that are really appealing to her both emotionally and color-wise. Yet she is open to experiments and likes to discover new bands via people’s suggestions.



Pink Floyd, “Time.”



Melissa still doesn’t know whether the songs look nice because she likes them or she likes them because of how they look. This question is impossible to answer! As a little girl she loved purple and pink colors, so now her favorite songs appear as those colors. She doesn’t know how these things work – it’s still a bit of a mystery to her.



Bon Iver, “For Emma, Forever Ago.”

The artist sticks to painting songs because sounds are just quick bursts of color and are less interesting to work with. Although, Melissa did paint the sound of her mom’s footsteps once. They were of her favorite purple color.



John Lennon, “Julia.”



Melissa has met other people with synesthesia. Hers was really different and although Melissa could relate to the concept, she didn’t really feel it the same way. The girl she met saw shapes when she heard different voices. She could also taste pitch!



Jimi Hendrix, “Little Wing.”

Today more and more people are coming out with their synesthesia condition. Lady Gaga, Pharell and Kaye West admitted to having it! Melissa believes it’s a good thing because people experience synesthesia in different ways and it’s always good to have someone you can relate to.



Stevie Ray Vaughan, “Lenny.”