Do These Paintings Sound Right To You?

by on May 6, 2015

   Melissa McCracken paints music. Yes. You read that right. She doesn’t make music. She paints it.

Melissa McCracken's version of David Bowie's Life On Mars

Melissa McCracken’s version of David Bowie’s Life On Mars

   Her swirling canvases of light, sound, and texture are how she sees a song that she’s hearing. It’s not something she imagines, it’s something she’s actually physically seeing—courtesy of a rare neurological condition.

  You see, Melissa McCracken has a form of Synesthesia. It means the sensory wires in her brain are criss-crossed. Some people who have it taste flavors when they hear words or see faces. Others see numbers or days of the week as having distinct color schemes or textures. McCracken’s variety of it translates what she hears into visible colors on the edge of her visual perception.

  According to a recent MTV interview with the artist, she doesn’t see all sounds as colors. Certain regular ones attract her attention (like the turquoise noise her alarm clock makes). But she’s learned not to pay attention to it all the time. Unsurprisingly, it can be kind of distracting and of-putting having random colors flash on the edge of your vision or discovering your favorite artist has created a song that has a color scheme you don’t like.

Melissa McCracken's visualization of Radiohead's 'Karma Police.'

Melissa McCracken’s visualization of Radiohead’s ‘Karma Police.’

  For all its potential inconvenience, Synesthesia isn’t a disability. To most who have a version of it (like Kanye West), it’s a creative gift and McCracken is no exception. Between her natural skill, years of art classes, and with a psychology degree under her belt, she’s refined her song imaging skills and turned it into a professional art career.

  Her work is making the rounds of social media. BlushMusic, her Etsy business in gyclee prints of her portfolio of paintings of classic and alt-rock tunes, is picking up steam. She also takes song commissions. But buyers beware—songs that sound beautiful to you might not always look as pretty.