Watch An Artist Demonstrate The Rare Ability To Hear Music In Color
While music has psychological and physiological impacts on all listeners, Melissa McCracken experiences music on a far more complex level than most. In an interview with MTV, McCracken discussed the impact of Synesthesia on her life as an artist. Synesthesia is experiencing an impression of one sense by the stimulation of another sense, in this case sound and color. Since the age of 15, McCracken has been painting the sounds of music, creating vibrant artistic representations of her favorite songs.
McCracken sees colors with letters, numbers, physical actions such as sneezing, or miscellaneous sounds such as her alarm clock. Unlike other cases of Synesthesia, McCracken associates everyday happenings with various colors: “Mainly, it’s just music that has vivid colors. Sometimes a sneeze will look light pink, or the beep on my alarm is turquoise, but I don’t pay much attention to those colors. I don’t think much of those until someone asks. Voices have a certain darker or lighter feel and can be more jagged-shaped or more rounded, but thinking of their faces instead usually overpowers the colors.”
“Joy in Repetition” — Prince
While different genres of music can extract various emotions depending on the listener, McCracken experiences this in a slightly different manner. For her, the more diverse a genre is, the stronger and more vibrant color schemes she sees and paints: “Some music genres are diverse enough to have a wide range of colors, but then there are some like, say, modern country, that generally just look dirty yellow and orange. Maybe that’s why I’m not that into modern country.”
“Little Wing” — Jimi Hendrix
Even particular instruments trigger various colors of the spectrum for McCracken: “Certain instruments tend to have the same sort of look if they are in the same context. For example, classical guitar is usually a golden-brown hue. But electric guitar can be very icy-purpley or blue. This is what you see in “Joy In Repetition,” in Prince’s solo. But if a song seems more dark blue or more pink, those colors will shade the instruments a little bit.”
“Tonight, Tonight” — The Smashing Pumpkins
McCracken’s Synesthesia is also influenced by live and recorded music, as she says a live show is far different than experiencing recorded music with the colors she sees: “Live music gets a little tricky sometimes, especially at shows with a lot of visual stimulation and lights. If I go to a show where I’m not familiar with all the songs, my mind will just associate what I’m seeing with the song. Sometimes it just stays that way.”
“Karma Police” — Radiohead
Read the full MTV interview with Melissa McCracken here.