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kottke.org posts about synesthesia

The artist who paints music

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 26, 2018

Melissa McCracken

Melissa McCracken

Melissa McCracken

Melissa McCracken has synesthesia and experiences seeing the music she listens to as shifting colors. In an old artist statement, McCracken explained how she sees the world differently than many people:

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.

Great Big Story did a short video profile of McCracken a couple of years ago:

I like how she says she dislikes how some songs sound but likes how they look. What a cool way to be able to experience the world.

McCracken is a bit coy on her site and Instagram about which songs inspired which paintings, but the paintings above are titled Love Is Touching Souls (from a Joni Mitchell lyric), Life on Mars (David Bowie), and Wasn’t It Kind of Wonderful (lyrics from a Lianne La Havas song?).

Noisy fruit and veggies

posted by Jason Kottke   May 16, 2011

Synesthesia is a short film by Terri Timely that attempts in an artful way to give the viewer a sense of what synesthesia (“the blending or mixing of senses”) is like.

Martian colors

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 12, 2007

Synesthesia is:

…a neurologically based phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.

For some people, this means that numbers are associated with colors…5 is blue, 2 is red, etc. In a recent experiment, a person with synesthesia was found to experience colors associated with numbers even though they were colorblind…colors that person had never actually seen with his eyes.

That may seem strange, but what it really means is that the subject had problems with his retina that left him able to distinguish only an extremely narrow range of wavelengths when looking at most images in the world — his brain was fine, but his eyes weren’t quite up to the job. But when he saw certain numbers, he experienced colors that he otherwise never saw.

He called the colors “martian colors”. (via the best thing i learned today)