The Whisper that Tingles – My Experiments with ASMR.

Quoting from Wikipedia
Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is an experience characterised by a static-like or tingling sensation on the skin that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine. It has been compared with auditory-tactile synaesthesia. ASMR signifies the subjective experience of “low-grade euphoria” characterised by “a combination of positive feelings and a distinct static-like tingling sensation on the skin”. It is most commonly triggered by specific acoustic, visual and digital media stimuli, and less commonly by intentional attentional control

It has been referred to as the so-called “Head Orgasm” although I dislike this term intensely as to me ASMR is a deeply pleasing, relaxing and totally un-sexualised experience.

ASMR recording tend to be whispers in the ear, crinkling of papers and tissues or the sounds of haircuts! These actually don’t do anything for me and in fact, whispering close to my ear or giving me a haircut is probably going to do the EXACT opposite to me. These sounds represent someone getting “too close” and invading my personal space. The back of my neck as a no-go area to most people other than my wife. I have to force myself to brave the monthly haircut as I’m supposedly a grown up now 😀

Sounds which trigger ASMR for me are the white-noise static sounds. hair dryers, vacuum cleaners, hand dryers, washing machines, babbling brooks and rushing streams, heavy rain and the such.  These sounds often (but not always) trigger the unmistakable scalp tingle that travels down my neck and across the back of my shoulders. It’s an odd sensation and one I cannot really pin down, like a cross between a cold breeze on the skin and a nervous shiver.

I’m a bit of an audio experimenter in my spare time. I create “Soundscape” tracks. Not musical per se but a bizarre melange of natural sounds, synthetic drone sounds created using pseudo-random mathematical functions and strange oscillating pulsating sounds generated to strobe from ear to ear creating the so-called “Binaural Beat” effect which people claim to be able to entrain the brain into broad frequency states (Alpha, Beta, Theta, Delta etc) I’m open-minded about this claim however I don’t buy in to the more out there and “esoteric” claims of it “opening the third eye”, “aligning one’s chakras with one’s QI” or “Enabling astral projection” . Instead, to me they are nothing but an oddly relaxing sound.

I layer my sounds in what I find pleasing arrangements then master them to create these fairly lengthy tracks which range from 20 mins up to around an hour in length each.

I don’t do this for any personal gain, other than having a repository of tracks to listen to when i feel the need to relax and try to achieve a more mindful state. I mentioned this briefly in a previous post :- Music, meditation, mindfulness, and Me.

As I sit here in my office, the air conditioning has just kicked in, there’s a gentle hum from the fans that just triggered an ASMR response compounded by the sudden breeze of icy cool air blowing across the back of my neck.

To me, ASMR and White noise/nature sounds are a form of safety net. It’s a comforting sound that makes me feel good. You could almost say it’s a form of auditory stimming as it provides everything stimming does and more.

if you want to experience these yourself, please feel free. I’ve put them on Soundcloud and can be played free of charge as often as you like. You can find my “audio creations” under Mycrofttech Audio – Soundscapes

Music, meditation, mindfulness, and Me.

Fellow aspies and non-aspies alike often suffer from the self-same problem, namely an overabundance or busy thoughts bouncing around our cramped overloaded brains all clamouring for attention. I guess ASD people perceive themselves to suffer more as they’re that little more susceptible to the negative effects. However, it’s something EVERYONE has to deal with at one point or another and in today’s high octane, high stress, low downtime environment finding quiet time is becoming increasingly more and more important.

As a child/young adult I loved the invention of the Sony Walkman. I’d never leave the house without mine and a collection of cassettes. Later the Sony Discman came out and again, I’d walk around with this oversized tea plate of a device strapped to my side and a collection of my precious CD’s . Thank heavens for the invention of the MP3 is all I can say.

To me, music was a means to escape – a bolthole for when things got too much. Although I listened to pretty much anything and everything my music tastes veered more to Classical music, repetitive tracks like Philip Glass or Steve Reich, complex layered pieces from the likes of Jean-Michel Jarre or Jazz from practitioners like Stan Getz et al.  I liked music I could get lost in, music that took me away from my immediate surroundings and gave me something to think about other than my current anxieties.

I remember listening to a self-hypnosis CD. It wasn’t music, it didn’t have vocals or anything but it was a rich layered abstract environment with overlapping elements of Whale song, synthetic drone sounds, chimes, discordant sounds and choral voices. I loved it! I would listen to this while lying on a bed in a darkened room and my mind would drift off into a strange daydream like state, totally focussed on the sounds but unlinked from reality. For the 30 or so minutes it played I would be totally relaxed and calm and the myriad voices in my head would be quietened. 

Flash-forward many years and I started making these sort of “music” pieces myself for my own benefit. I put music in quotes there because it’s anything BUT musical XD. I’m a mathematician, a programmer, an electronics engineer but most certainly NOT a musician.  I wrote software to generate midi keyboard signals based on musical theory (a mathematical concept) , Chord progressions too I incorporated  (again, another mathematical concept) –When you boil it down, you realise just how mathematical musical composition is ! I’d no real talent at composition but my semi-random plinks and plonks seemed pleasing enough.

I investigated binaural beat theory. I’m dubious about all their claims of Binaural (or Isochronic) beat technology being able to “Open the third eye, Activate astral projection or ensure lucid dreaming” instead I simply found the strange oscillating, pulsating sounds oddly soothing. Whether or not they were actually affecting my Alpha, Beta, Theta or Gamma brainwaves as they claim I have no idea – but they did relax me.

Later in conversation with a friend who was going through a rough patch I mentioned I did these for my own benefit and he showed an interest. Then another, and another.  Ultimately I polished my technique and made a few tracks which I released on Soundcloud.

As I say I’m not a professional musician – I’m not even an amateur musician XD I like listening to these as a means to relax. I find I become very focussed on the music and my random thoughts quieten down. I drift through strange landscapes where thunder and lightning mix with Tibetan bowls and choirs singing vocal aaahs and ooohs!
   I make no claims about my “creations” other than they’re vaguely and strangely relaxing.

If you are interested you can check them out here.