Sunday, August 18, 2013

still-sound 189. ASMR

I didn't particularly enjoy my piano lessons as a kid.  I dreaded them to some extent except for the end when my teacher would flip through the pages of the lesson book choosing a song for me to learn for the following week.  The sounds of the pages turning and a few directions jotted down with a pencil would cause goosebumps to crawl all over my arms.  My scalp would go all tingly

It turns out I have a weird fetish.  I didn't even know that it existed or had a name until a few days ago.  It's called ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response).  Certain sounds trigger it.  In college I often hung out with my friend Aviva, a (then) active smoker.  Sometimes the barely audible crackle of the paper and dried leaves as they ignited from her drag on the cigarette caused waves of shivers over my upper body.  The mouth noise of the cigarette leaving her damp lips as a smoky breath exhaled sustained the shivers.

Similarly I felt waves of tingly relaxation while sitting in Aviva's room as she brushed her hair.  Aviva was, apparently my ASMR supplier.

This all sounds sexual.  But it's not.  The ASMR never extends south of the waist.  It's more of a deeply relaxed response. I don't have it often as I used to (as I kid I was covered in tingles).  I now only get it occasionally.

And like tickling yourself, you can't effectively cause an ASMR on your own.  I feel nothing when I turn the pages of a magazine.  Unless it's an exciting magazine of course.

I most recently noticed it while watching an episode of At Home With Venetia in Kyoto.  Venetia visited a basketweaver and they spoke very quietly in Japanese.  The sounds of the whispered consonants and the crinkle of the basket as they passed it to one another drew me into a deep, shivery relaxation.  Covered in goosebumps I rewatched the scene several times - but did not experience the ASMR as strongly.

I thought everyone had this response although I've asked a few friends if they ever got waves of tingles from the sound of pages turning.  (They don't).  But apparently some people do - and I'm apparently part of a strange fetishy brotherhood.

I didn't know it was 'a thing' until I started searching for videos on youtube of relaxing sounds.  Origami tutorials. Basketweaving. I typed in 'pages turning' and stumbled upon an entire world of sounds.  Most of the videos had 'ASMR' in the titles.  A google search later revealed its meaning.

I've watched several of these videos the last few nights.  My favorite was of a guy pretending to be a librarian.  He checks out books, fingers through the pages, jots something down on the back page and whispers comments as he does so. Some of the books had that wonderfully crackly cellophane, protective wrapping.*  You would think that I would be a tingly mess, but despite finding it deeply relaxing, did not have an ASMR.  Maybe I don't respond as well to recorded triggers (unless, of course they happen to be Venetia whispering to a basketweaver).**

*Again, this sounds sexual.  It's really not.
**Since writing this post, I've watched quite a number of ASMR videos and had the full-on tingle response!  It was triggered by Maria, the queen of this genre.  Her youtube name is Gentlewhispering.  It was a video of Maria whispering in Russian while tapping and stroking various belts that did it.  I know this sounds weird as I write this...


  1. the sound of someone biting into a popsicle. even just thinking about it, causes my skin to tense and ripple. it's not relaxing however, quite the opposite. what curious birds we are.


  2. How kooky! The only sound-related responses I've experienced are unpleasant ones, like for the classic fingernails-on-the-chalkboard scenario. And I find it acutely uncomfortable listening to people who have a permanent frog in their throat, or speak with that that wet, "smacky" noise caused by dry mouth.