Welcome to the wonderfully relaxing, tingling world that is ASMR. ASMR is a youtube community of people brought together who experience a tingly, or as I prefer, a faint hum of a sensation that is relaxing and enjoyable that starts behind the back of the head and can travel down arms and legs if you are super triggered. ASMR literally means Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and you can read more about it here.
On Saturday 29th April over 100 people went to The Courtyard Theatre in London to attend a live ASMR event by ASMRtist Emma, otherwise known as WhispersRed on Youtube. She transported us away from the busy capital and beyond the hard seats we sat on in the theatre studio. She sent us on a wonderful journey into a dreamy haze of warmth and comfort, and a lovely doze for me.
For some of us this event began earlier in the afternoon as we all met prior to the ASMR Happening to get to know each other and grab some food (my life revolves around food so this was a plus – and it was pizza so double whammy!) This was to prevent people who might be travelling alone feeling uncomfortable or anxious, emotions that ASMR in itself provides comfort against.
Just before 7 we wandered over to the theatre and upstairs into The White Room. This was a room to chill out in before the session. There were bowls with water beads and coffee beans, feathers in ultramarine, and head massagers laid out on tables for you to feel, run your fingers through and interact with. There was also a lady called Krisztina from ‘ASMR Massage London’ offering free head massages – the ultimate hands-on ASMR treatment.
The doors then opened and we each picked up a set of cordless headphones and got ourselves comfortable.
The seats were your standard, hard backed chairs; I don’t know why but I was expecting a set of sofas. Hilarious when you consider how inexpensive the ticket was! (The reason for this is because the price of the ticket was to just cover the costs of the venue and equipment hire.)
The live performance began with a projection on the white backdrops of Emma speaking to us. She glowed warmly as she reflected on the importance of kindness and our empathy which draws us together, drawing us into a similar headspace where we are safe to enjoy the tingly ASMR sensation together in the same space.
The projection then ended and she stepped out from the backdrop and the evening began. She sent us on a journey of meditation through sound by using her singing bowls and I really enjoyed them. I was surprised because I don’t usually enjoy them in videos but hearing the hum and vibration of them live was an entirely different experience. My head was pleasantly buzzing and my seat didn’t feel as hard anymore but started to envelop me in its imaginary plush folds.
Each bowl sang with its own tone and pitch, you could almost see colours coming from the sounds there were so natural and pure. However, I could feel the potential for these sounds to become a little too repetitive, but fortunately Emma didn’t overuse the bowls and moved to sit on a very comfortable looking chair (okay, I was jealous. It looked super comfy!) We all had a bit of a giggle – she has a very gentle but quick wit whilst maintaining an aura of calmness about her. Opening a notebook she took us on a guided meditation as we walked down through the forest and streets in the abundance of Spring.
The piece, Original Mediation, was written by Katie Stone (@writemindful.co.uk), an online fan and friend of Emma’s for years, and it translated perfectly into a performative piece. At the start there was an analogy with a glitter jar which Emma physically used, turning it upside down and allowing the purple pink glitter flakes to float. This, along with the soft (almost blurred, but pleasantly so) projections behind her, transcended through the space and into our minds as we floated into semi-consciousness with the beautiful images, sounds and words we were exposed to. The meditative piece read aloud had other pre-recorded sounds layered from crunching leaves underfoot to birds singing in trees. We walked a journey previously walked before, but this time with our eyes and ears open, noticing every detail and finding beauty and value in it.
Then I fell asleep. A full on doze – I felt like I was wrapped in a warm, fluffy blanket and it was wonderful. With the lulling voice of Emma, the words and sounds of Spring, and the hazy blur of the projections, was it surprising a lot of us had a nap?
Towards the end of the meditation Emma brought us back and used an extremely high tech, expensive piece of equipment hired for this evening and put a wig on it. She brushed the hair and intoxicated us with the sounds she created by running her hands over the hair and ears of the dummy head, but it might as well have been our own ears the sound was so incredible. This is when my partner’s eyes started drooping and I wasn’t far behind.
Emma ended the live part with a thank you to her team and requesting us to wait in the White Room so she could come and thank us all coming. When I got to thank her for this blissful experience I did have to prevent any fangirling. I have watched her videos for years, at my lowest point and now at my highest point. I told her that I could not imagine how much time she had spent organising this event; I was thinking a year or two. No. She said very emphatically it had taken years to get this off the ground. This event, aptly named a “Happening” due to combined artistic elements staged as a live piece, was a one of a kind experience. If I could go again, I would. The technological issues with the occasional white noise feedback in the headphones and people moving in their seats generating what would normally have been an unbelievably irritating noise, pulling me out of my total immersion, was just in the background. The focus and dedication from Emma put all other distractions into the background. She didn’t earn a single penny from this. She found value in things that cannot be measured in money or numbers; kindness, a sense of community, appreciation and admiration, comfort…
ASMR Happens Live 2017 glided away from its traditional medium in Youtube and yet returned to its roots. As stated in the programme, Emma really did unite us in ‘a universal connection through soft sounds, kindness and moments of stillness […] in the same space as one’. A huge thank you to Emma and the team involved:
Producer/Projection Design – Pete Wallace
Producer/ASMRtist – Emma WhispersRed
Stage Manager/Wireless Audio – Benjamin Fox
Sound Engineer/Playback – Jo Lord
Screens/Fabrication – Susanna Dunn
Film Maker – Josh Garner
Original Meditation by Katie Stone @writemindful.co.uk
Emma WhispersRedASMR channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/WhispersRedASMR
Her Website: http://whispersredasmr.com/
Her Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/WhispersRedASMR
N.B. Only the photograph of myself wearing the headphones and of the screen belong to me. None of the other photos belong to me.