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10 Rock Songs Painted by a Woman Who Sees Music

Melissa McCracken painting
Melissa McCracken painting
This is how Radiohead sounds to synesthetic painter Melissa McCracken.

Melissa McCracken is a synesthete—thanks to a phenomenon called synesthesia, her senses have an extra dimension that most of ours don’t. For Melissa, it’s all about color. Things we don’t perceive as having color—the number 6, or a power chord—come at her with color in addition to whatever meaning or value the rest of us get. A 6 is still the number of legs an insect has, it’s still one more than 5 and one less than 7, but it’s got color too. In her own words, from melissasmccracken.com:

Until I was 15, I thought everyone constantly saw colors. Colors in books, colors in math formulas, colors at concerts. But when I finally asked my brother which color the letter C was (canary yellow, by the way) I realized my mind wasn’t quite as normal as I had thought.

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.

So—she paints what she sees (if only in her mind’s eye) when she hears music. Here are 10 paintings she’s created from rock songs; you can see more on her website (linked above) and purchase prints from her Etsy store.

Melissa McCracken painting
Melissa McCracken, “Little Wing” by Jimi Hendrix
Melissa McCracken painting
Melissa McCracken, “All the Love in the World” by Nine Inch Nails
Melissa McCracken painting
Melissa McCracken, “Since I’ve Been Loving You” by Led Zeppelin
Melissa McCracken painting
Melissa McCracken, “Karma Police” by Radiohead
Melissa McCracken painting
Melissa McCracken, “Imagine” by John Lennon
Melissa McCracken painting
Melissa McCracken, “Tonight Tonight” by The Smashing Pumpkins
Melissa McCracken painting
Melissa McCracken, “Life on Mars?” by David Bowie
Melissa McCracken painting
Melissa McCracken, “Bodysnatchers” by Radiohead
Melissa McCracken painting
Melissa McCracken, “Mr. Ambulance Driver” by The Flaming Lips
Melissa McCracken painting
Melissa McCracken, “Lucky” by Radiohead

2 thoughts on “10 Rock Songs Painted by a Woman Who Sees Music

  1. My thanks to a friend of mine for sending me a copy of American Lifestyle Magazine. I was able to see and read the article about Melissa McCracken.. The news that she is able to “see sound” is amazing. The above mentioned publication covered her process as well as showcasing several pieces of her art work. I wish her well . Beautiful sound/color. Sincerely—Heidi Jarvis

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