An Artist with Synesthesia Turns Jazz & Rock Classics Into Colorful Abstract Paintings

For those in the arts, few moments are more bliss­ful than those spent “in the zone,” those times when the words or images or notes flow unim­ped­ed, the artist func­tion­ing as more con­duit than cre­ator.

Viewed in this light, artist Melis­sa McCrack­en’s chromes­the­sia—or sound-to-col­or synesthesia—is a gift. Since birth, this rare neu­ro­log­i­cal phe­nom­e­non has caused her to see col­ors while lis­ten­ing to music, an expe­ri­ence she likens to visu­al­iz­ing one’s mem­o­ries.

Trained as a psy­chol­o­gist, she has made a name for her­self as an abstract painter by trans­fer­ring her col­or­ful neu­ro­log­i­cal asso­ci­a­tions onto can­vas.

John Lennon’s “Julia” yields an impas­to flame across a pale green field.

The bold daf­fodil and phlox hues of Jimi Hendrix’s “Lit­tle Wing” could have sprung from Monet’s gar­den at Giverny.

McCrack­en told Broad­ly that chromes­thetes’ col­or asso­ci­a­tions vary from indi­vid­ual to indi­vid­ual, though her own expe­ri­ence of a par­tic­u­lar song only wavers when she is focus­ing on a par­tic­u­lar ele­ment, such as a bass line she’s nev­er paid atten­tion to before.

While her port­fo­lio sug­gests a woman of catholic musi­cal tastes, col­or­wise, she does tend to favor cer­tain gen­res and instru­ments:

Expres­sive music such as funk is a lot more col­or­ful, with all the dif­fer­ent instru­ments, melodies, and rhythms cre­at­ing a high­ly sat­u­rat­ed effect. Gui­tars are gen­er­al­ly gold­en and angled, and piano is more mar­bled and jerky because of the chords. I rarely paint acoustic music because it’s often just one per­son play­ing gui­tar and singing, and I nev­er paint coun­try songs because they’re bor­ing mut­ed browns.

Her favorite kind of music, jazz, almost always presents itself to her in shades of gold and blue, lead­ing one to won­der if per­haps the Utah Jazz’s uni­form redesign has a synes­thet­ic ele­ment.

Cer­tain­ly, there are a large num­ber of musi­cians—includ­ing Duke Elling­ton, Kanye West, and Bil­ly Joel—for whom col­or and music are inex­tri­ca­bly linked.

View Melis­sa McCracken’s port­fo­lio here.

via Broad­ly

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Wass­i­ly Kandin­sky Syncs His Abstract Art to Mussorgsky’s Music in a His­toric Bauhaus The­atre Pro­duc­tion (1928)

Goethe’s The­o­ry of Col­ors: The 1810 Trea­tise That Inspired Kandin­sky & Ear­ly Abstract Paint­ing

The MoMA Teach­es You How to Paint Like Pol­lock, Rothko, de Koon­ing & Oth­er Abstract Painters

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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