When most of us listen to music, we hear the notes or the general vibe of a tune. Maybe it’s happy, or it makes you think about being in love or being heartbroken, or remember a time you had a killer dance party with your best friends back in the day. But some people get to see things when they listen to music. Melissa McCracken is an artist who has a condition that allows her to see colors in music, and she uses that skill to paint songs.
Yes, she can paint songs.
McCracken has a neurological condition called synesthesia, which affects about 4 percent of people. All that means is that the brain somehow has its “wires crossed,” so it responds differently to stimuli than other people do. It can affect people differently, but McCracken’s is chromesthesia, which means that she’s able to — involuntarily — see colors when she hears sounds.
It’s pretty wild. McCracken uses this talent in her art, which are gorgeous, colorful paintings that correlate to the music she’s listening to. She doesn’t listen to or make music. She paints it. McCracken writes on her website that she always thought everyone else was seeing what she did.
In an interview with Vice’s Broadly, she said that she had a blue cellphone when she was a teenager and told a friend that she was going to pick a ringtone that was orange to match it. Although we all know blue and orange are perfect complementary colors, her friend looked at her like she was insane.
The colors don’t block her vision and it’s not like hallucinating, she said. “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,” McCracken said.
She doesn’t just see colors when she listens to music, either, though that’s the most fun, she writes on her website. McCracken also sees numbers and days of the week as certain colors, “as if they had a set point in space,” she writes.
You can check out her work on Instagram or contact her about her prints, which are for sale if you have the budget for fine art.