Seeing Music

When Melissa McCracken listens to Karma Police by Radiohead –


she sees this

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When she listens to Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley


she sees this

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For Melissa, music:

… 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.

“Until I was 15, I thought everyone constantly saw colors,” she says on her website. “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.

If only we were all so “wrongly” wired.

Her website has some FAQs. The answer to this question made me wonder what colours I would see to one of Moe’s songs. Perhaps it would enable me to listen to them, like my partner does, without feeling like my nerve endings are going to unravel and spiral out of my nose. Or maybe it would all just be inky black swirls of smoke. Which is exactly how it makes me feel.

Do you tend to like songs because of the way they look, or do songs look good because you like them?

I still haven’t quite figured that out, but I think that sometimes the look of a song can make me more or less attracted to it. If it’s not an “easy listening” song, I might like it more than others because I have a visual experience that ties sporadic or aggressive notes to something softer and easier to digest. Other times, I’ll be enjoying a song and then a random, horrible color will come in that will completely turn me off.

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