The Sound of Everything
Catherine M. Dale
“I listen to something called ASMR or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, which is a neologism for a pleasurable sensation that is said to induce calm, mental focus, and what is often referred to as a ‘tingling’ sensation on the scalp and along the spine. Although it is the kind of sensation you might feel when someone touches on the back of your neck lightly, the ‘triggers’ for ASMR’s effects are most often auditory and visual, rather than tactile sources. In this way, ASMR is ideal for the internet.
ASMR audio-visual recordings are found mostly on YouTube: hours of rain – thunder-storm rain, rain on the roof of a tent, rain on a car roof, rain against a window. You can get anything you want: hard rain, soft rain and everything-in-between rain. There is also a surfeit of recordings of the crinkling of plastic packages, the wrapping and unwrapping of presents, and the pages of newspapers being slowly and methodically turned, sometimes while the contents are whispered. And then there are the narratival posts such as a faux shopping channel selling leather handbags, several towel folding tutorials in a make-believe spa, a trip to a space station for an intergalactic holiday, a lesson on how to buy a tailored suit, and a role play of having a haircut. These are binaural recordings, which means that with earphones you hear the swishing of water from ear to ear as someone washes your hair. ”
Catherine Dale teaches cultural studies, the literary essay, and academic writing at Chuo university in Tokyo Japan. They write art and literary reflections and commentaries for small presses.
Dale would like to add the following supplementary references and links to the essay:
For an ongoing radio show dedicated to ASMR, see http://www.berlincommunityradio.com/youre-worth-it. The artist Holly Herndon makes ASMR for the gallery see http://afterall.org/journal/issue.41/holly-herndon_a-life-across-bits-and-atoms. Also, ASMR as sound-noise sometimes merges ontologically; see for example Daniel Menche’s raw recording series, in particular, the tracks of rain and the one of wind; it becomes difficult to tell the difference. https://danielmenche.bandcamp.com/album/raw-recording-series