ASMR and embodied sound design in narrative film and television

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) is a subjective perceptual sensory phenomenon. Often triggered by certain sensory stimuli or certain social scenarios, especially ones of intimate or personal attention, it typically results in a tingling sensation in the scalp, neck, back, arms. Videos began to appear on social media streaming sites such as YouTube around 2010, which were designed to re-enact scenarios of stimulation and/or reproduce trigger sounds through technologically enabled proximity. Often these videos involve the simulation of therapeutic or caring scenarios, associating an affective pleasure with the experience of care. ASMR videos deliberately draw on the haptic properties of sound to engage the body of the viewer and connects it with body of the “ASMRtist”. Specific sounds such as white noise or those produced by actions such as typing, scraping, brushing, or crinkling can trigger an ASMR response. Further to this, ASMR videos are closely associated with the materiality of the voices. They often, but not always, involve feminine voices with soft or whispered utterances. Although, ASMR has generally been associated with participatory streaming platforms, the sonic stimuli and modes of address associated with ASMR are increasingly becoming apparent in narrative film and quality television drama, particularly during scenes simulating caring scenarios. Drawing on examples from Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Battle of the Sexes, Phantom Thread and Mozart in the Jungle, this paper explores how moving image sound design is increasingly used to replicate or trigger ASMR responses in, or for, audiences within a narrative context.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2023
Event19th Music and Moving Image Annual Conference - New York, United States
Duration: 26 May 202328 May 2023


Conference19th Music and Moving Image Annual Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew York

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