Sculptures in Reverse, No. 2 (Autonomous sensory meridian response / Taste-Shape Synesthesia)

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Sculpture in Reverse, No. 2 (To be listened with headphones)


“Sculptures in Reverse” is a series of binaural foley sounds designed around the idea of producing sounds which mimic the sounds that can be heard within the interior spaces of one’s head – such as the sound of cleaning one’s ears with cotton, scratching one’s scalp, or the sound when one’s hair brushes against one’s headphones. This piece must be listened to with headphones.

The neologism “ASMR” (Autonomous sensory meridian response) is popularly used to describe panning/binaural sounds which may trigger tingling, pleasurable, or relaxing sensations in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to auditory stimuli. Even the sound of someone noisily unwrapping some paper or plastic behind me (without me being directly aware or focusing on the sound) can give me an unexpected “premonitory” tingle, although I cannot explain how or why it happens in any definite terms. It is almost as if I am like a glass vessel that happens to resonate or vibrate along with other tones/vibrations.

Recently I found out that I might have some form of synesthesia – an unconscious wiring of different senses together. I have always tasted foods as “shapes”, and had always assumed this was true for most people. Somehow, I suspect that many people throughout my life seem to have humoured me and my comments about the “shape” of foods as simply being part of my being “overly-imaginative” or “creative”, without realising that the “shapes” of tastes are actually real to me.

It is quite bizarre if you ask me: how is it that people do not taste salty flavours as roundish, or sweet flavours as possessing of angular features? Isn’t it as obvious as looking at a physical object and being able to tell its visual shape and colour immediately? I have always assumed that it would be as obvious as being able to discern colours. When people say “This taste is not rounded enough!” – obviously to be said when you want to tell someone that the taste is currently too angular! I thought that when I posted about it online that others would chime in and agree that it was patently obvious that a salty flavour would usually be rounded, but up to this point no one else that I’ve met has had the same perception of it! I began to question if I had made it all up. Could this all be another one of my confabulations? But… how do you explain why the perception of these “shapes” seem real to me? Is it less real just because I don’t have the words to describe it yet?

I am also equally surprised when people tell me that they have experienced no interesting sensations from listening to “crispy” sounds. I wonder if my ability to appreciate “ASMR” is somehow related to my ability to taste shapes. For me, it is a matter of “red” being red, and “blue” being blue, “salty” being generally roundish, “sweet” being decidedly angular, and “bitter” like a horizontally layered slate-like shape which disintegrates around the edges (UGH!). A person whispering SKSKSK which gives me a tickle behind my right ear and anticipation of pain or touch gives a strange “leap” behind the knees. How do we describe these connections and sensations which span across more than one of the senses – connections which are indistinct and for which we have no common understanding of words to describe them? What is the connection between the consciousness and the senses?

The series “Sculpture in Reverse No. 2” is an attempt to simulate physical sensation through audio alone.

Longer half hour mix (To be listened with headphones):