The super power that allows artists to see music in colours

Artist 06/04/2017

David Bowie - Life On Mars

Artists paint based on the things they see, right? Not, Melissa McCracken – she paints what she hears.

The 26-year-old from Missouri, has a rare neurological condition called Synesthesia that cross wires the brains responses to certain stimuli.

There are a number of different forms of Synesthesia that effect approximately four percent of the population.

McCracken’s form is called Chromesthesia, which makes her involuntarily see colours while listening to music. This sounds like more of a super power than anything else…

Lorde, Grimes, Pharrell and Kanye West all also have been diagnosed with the condition.


During West's notorious interview with Ellen last year he claimed Synesthesia is "the key to his genius."  

Pharell has said he'd be lost without it. 

And Lorde revealed on Twitter: “one funny thing is when I’m writing, if a song’s colours are too oppressive or ugly sometimes I won’t want to work on it – when we first started Tennis Court we just had that pad playing the chords, and it was the worst textured tan colour, like really dated, and it made me feel sick, and then we figured out that pre chorus and I started the lyric and the song changed to all these incredible greens overnight!”

McCracken didn’t realise the way she "saw" music differed from other people until she was 16, when she was trying to pick her ringtone and told her friend she was going to pick an “orange” song, followed by him looking at her like she was bat shit crazy.

This might have been a bit weird for her at first, realising she saw/heard things differently from the rest of us. But nowdays, just like some of our favourite artists, she’s learned to harness her condition, and uses it to create crazy, beautiful paintings of some of her favourite songs.

She told Broadly a little but more about how this condition works: “Synesthesia doesn't interfere with my sight in any way and it's not hallucinogenic. It just floats there in a similar way to how you would imagine something or visualize a memory. I don't need to close my eyes but it helps me visualize it better if I do.”

Check out some of her work below.

Prince - Joy In Repitition

Iron & Wine - Boy With A Coin

Radiohead - Karma Police

Pink Floyd - Time

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago