Have You Ever Wondered What Your Favorite Songs Look Like? This Artist Can Show You!

Stevie Ray Vaughan, "Lenny" courtesy of Melissa McCraken

Stevie Ray Vaughan, "Lenny" courtesy of Melissa McCraken

Have you ever wondered if musical notes have colors? For Melissa McCracken, the 26-year-old Kansas City native, seeing colors while listening to music was a phenomenon that she thought everyone experienced. It wasn't until Melissa was 15 that she realized the incredible gift she had. Describing her musical synesthesia, Melissa shares: 

J.S. Bach, "Cello Suite No. 1" courtesy of Melissa McCracken

J.S. Bach, "Cello Suite No. 1" courtesy of Melissa McCracken

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.
Bon Iver, "For Emma, Forever Ago" courtesy of Melissa McCracken

Bon Iver, "For Emma, Forever Ago" courtesy of Melissa McCracken

Melissa has taken this "cross-wiring" of her brain and shared the vibrance that she sees in the world with people through her paintings. 

When asked how she sees the colors, Melissa responded: "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."

Jimi Hendrix, "Little Wing" courtesy of Melissa McCracken

Jimi Hendrix, "Little Wing" courtesy of Melissa McCracken

When speaking about what music is more interesting to paint, Melissa shared that expressive music such as blues or funk is much more interesting to paint than an acoustic singer-songwriter on solo guitar. Melissa also shared that country music tends to have more muted, brown tones, so it doesn't come out as interesting as other songs. Factors that impact the colors and structure of a painting include instrumentation, tone, melodic lines, rhythm and key, to name a few. 

Iron and Wine, "Boy with a Coin" courtesy of Melissa McCracken 

Iron and Wine, "Boy with a Coin" courtesy of Melissa McCracken 

Melissa has experimented painting the same song along with another artist with synesthesia, and they discovered that they experienced completely different colors, proving how subjective it can be. Melissa particularly enjoys analyzing the paintings of Kandinsky, another artist with synesthesia.

John Lennon, "Julia" courtesy of Melissa McCracken 

John Lennon, "Julia" courtesy of Melissa McCracken 

Pink Floyd, "Time" courtesy of Melissa McCracken  

Pink Floyd, "Time" courtesy of Melissa McCracken  

Prince, "Joy in Repetition" courtesy of Melissa McCracken 

Prince, "Joy in Repetition" courtesy of Melissa McCracken 

Radiohead, "All I Need" courtesy of Melissa McCracken

Radiohead, "All I Need" courtesy of Melissa McCracken

Radiohead, "Karma Police" courtesy of Melissa McCracken

Radiohead, "Karma Police" courtesy of Melissa McCracken

Bowie, "Life on Mars" courtesy of Melissa McCracken

Bowie, "Life on Mars" courtesy of Melissa McCracken