Here's How An Artist With Synesthesia "Sees" Famous Songs


Danielle Andrew

Editorial Intern

2707 Here's How An Artist With Synesthesia "Sees" Famous Songs
Bodysnatchers. Melissa S McCracken.

Synesthesia is a very rare neurological condition in which the usually individual neural pathways in the brain down which sensory messages travel become inexplicably linked. This allows “sufferers” to see sound, and taste colors.

Synesthesia, from the Greek words syn (union) and aesthesis (sensation), affects roughly 1 in 2,000 people, affecting different people in different ways.


Artist Melissa McCracken has the ability to see sounds, so when listening to music she experiences it not just as sound, but as images and colors. Which must be an incredible experience.

McCracken explains on her webpage:

"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."

McCracken decided to document her experiences by listening to some of the best music that the last 30 years have to offer in the form of John Lennon, David Bowie and Led Zeppelin – and recording what she sees.

[Side note: anyone else curious what a Spice Girls painting would look like?]


John Lennon – Imagine


The brain has been described as one of the most powerful and complex organisms in the universe – we are yet to even get a firm handle on what the brain is capable of, let alone begin to understand how it works. Synesthesia is just another example of how incredible and far-reaching the mind's abilities extend.

John Mayer – Gravity



Jimi Hendrix – Little Wing




Led Zeppelin – Since I've Been Loving You


David Bowie – Life On Mars



Prince – Joy In Repetition

Check out more of McCracken's work here.


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  • Synesthesia