The Mad Music of Seeing Sounds and Hearing Light


Visual News reproduces paintings by an artist who has synesthesia, the ability to “see” sounds and “hear” light and colors. Though the ability has often been labeled as a “disorder” of the brain, Neuroskeptic reports in Discovery on a new study that found no brain-based evidence to support such an assertion.

Visual News quotes from the biography of Melissa McCracken: “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.”

“(T)he majority of studies suggest that the experience of synesthetic colors is not caused by neural activity in the brain’s color-detecting cortex, which is inconsistent with the most straightforward version of the crossed wires idea,” writes Neuroskeptic.

Artist With Synesthesia Paints Music The Way She Sees It (Visual News, April 19, 2015)

Is Synesthesia A Brain Disorder? (Discover, April 21, 2015)


  1. Disorder?? That’s more like an evolved perception. Sound and color are both vibrational frequencies, they can be interpreted in a variety of unique way this is not ‘the norm.’ Our eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and fingers experience information and energy, and our brains interpret it. We all interpret differently, with some overlap, but sometimes there is a vast difference in how we interpret what we perceive. So what? That’s diversity.

    Although I’ve certainly noticed that those with the most narrow focus and shallow perspective would, of course, be the most intolerant, critical, judgmental, and triggered by the uniqueness of others–instead, feeling compelled to negatively label them, and all that goes with that–which is really a shame when that happens, and a tragedy for society at large.

    Perfect example of how psychiatry turns our gifts into problems that aren’t there. Of course there’s nothing wrong with her, everyone has their own unique way of perceiving things! When will this community wake up to that??

    I’m glad this woman appreciates her uniqueness, and that everyone realizes there is nothing at all wrong with her brain. Sounds like an awesome creative process to me.

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  2. Everything has to be disorder today, even such amazing ability like synesthesia. People are different and have different ways of perceiving and relating to the world around them. Why don’t we just accept it?

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  3. Alex – best I heard about (saw on TV way back) was some whacky guy who felt Platonic solids pressing on the skin of different body parts when they gave him different foods. He had on all the wires and was virtually ecstatic with every new bite.

    B – Analyze that.

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    • Ha, that’s a good one! I know you asked B for analysis, but I can’t resist giving it a shot.

      Ecstasy is the energy level to which you refer, here. That’s a vibration, the way, say, suffering is the antithetical vibration. So when we suffer, our goal can be to discover ecstasy, simply because ecstasy and suffering cannot exist in the same space, the exact same way light and dark cannot exist in the same space. Light eliminates the dark, the way ecstasy eliminates suffering, by nature. That’s only logical.

      I’d say that’s the most important thing to notice, that this guy feels ecstasy when he eats. What else matters, other than that our actions and manifestations give us ecstasy, and certainly it goes without saying, not at the expense of others, but simply from our own enjoyment as our self-nourishment? Or taking in a really fantastic film, play, or music, for example, that feeling of transformative ecstasy which can happen with particularly powerful art. I’d say he’s got it figured out, at least that would be my goal in life, to feel ecstatic about it wherever I can. Then I know with certainty I am not suffering. That makes life worthwhile, without a doubt.

      As far as the fact that he felt geometrical solids when he ate, I’d wonder if this feeling sensation of the solids was associated with the ecstasy, or was that the food? Where does that fit in with the ecstasy? Food-shapes-ecstasy, an interesting triangulation, so to speak. Sounds like it all vibrates at ecstasy (which would be the wavelength frequency, such as with color and sound, as per this article–there is also a feeling associated with color and sound) so he is feeling and tasting ecstasy through his physical senses of taste and touch, lucky guy.

      Definitely, my focus would be the ecstasy, for if we are feeling that, why question anything else? We simply want to enjoy more of that, which would eradicate suffering.

      The inner guidance about which I speak from time to time, as what I consider to be our best self-healing and self-guiding tools, is where the good feelings are, such as ecstasy, bliss, love, general openness and feeling of expansion, etc. So that is the direction in which I take my journey, as a way of manifesting desirable change.

      Thanks for indulging me.

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        • Alex – Like you know, it’s all good. You were just crossing over via your imagination like he does between his senses, or this lady in the news. The germane fact to keep explicit concerns the context: no one was hauling him away and injecting him. Dr. Hickey, you might have seen, takes offhandedly positive views of neuroscience proper: well, this kind of thing certainly proves the point that if you get picked up first by them rather than psychiatry you are at least worth some interest and can expect some solid breaks in your favor…. Pudding, carrot cake, things you won’t eat but I will, endless good stuff….

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