Visualizations of Famous Songs to a Synesthetic Artistic

This is what David Bowie’s Life On Mars looks like. At least to artist Melissa McCracken. This isn’t just super abstract creativity – Melissa actually sees music in her head because of extra connections in her brain due to a condition called synesthesia. As she explains on her webpage,

“Basically, my brain is cross-wired. I experience the “wrong” sensation to certain stimuli. Each letter and number is colored and the days of the year circle around my body as if they had a set point in space. But the most wonderful “brain malfunction” of all is seeing the music I hear. It flows in a mixture of hues, textures, and movements, shifting as if it were a vital and intentional element of each song. Having synesthesia isn’t distracting or disorienting. It adds a unique vibrance to the world I experience.”

John Lennon – Imagine

John Mayer – Gravity

Jimi Hendrix – Little Wing


Interestingly enough, I did a little research and found that all these artists also have synesthesia. I wonder if it’s simply coincidence, or if there’s a reason she picked these pieces by other synesthetes to paint. And what do these artists think their music looks like? It would be fun to compare.

I also am a synesthete and I find it very difficult to draw a piece’s shape and color in general because it’s constantly shifting with the music. I’d like to know if this is a visualization in general, or if she paused at a particularly colorful point and then drew it. Where did she stop? The beginning of the chorus? The end of a verse? Anyway, it’s fun to see other’s perception of music.



3 thoughts on “Visualizations of Famous Songs to a Synesthetic Artistic

    1. This is so fascinating! I’m so glad you told me about this, I’ve never thought of colors and sounds going both ways. I’ve always thought of notes having colors, but not colors having notes. “I dressed in C Major today” really made me stop and think.
      I was reading in my psychology book today about a man who was color blind, but could dream in color. Somehow, his brain could see colors he had never actually physically seen before. Because of it, he wasn’t able to describe or label the colors, but testing showed that he could see the full rainbow as if he wasn’t color blind. Interesting stuff.

      1. Hi,
        It’s made me realise that there will be gradations from full colour to B&W across a population, so now when I see an over-saturated photo I wonder if the person is deficient in colour cones, so doesn’t realise how over-coloured their photo is. As an aside, one of our cleaners always wore far too much perfume; turns out she had no sense of smell, so didn’t realise how much she used.

        cheers another phil

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