This post is part of Hard Refresh, a soothing weekly column where we try to cleanse your brain of whatever terrible thing you just witnessed on Twitter.
Have you ever wanted to live inside a virtual world? If so, put on some headphones and follow me this way.
Welcome to the magical world of ambient soundscapes. Here, you can instantly transport yourself to a secret bakery or pirate ship with a single click.
You’ve probably heard of ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response. These calming clips on YouTube aim to give listeners “brain tingles” through various visual and auditory techniques such as whispering, scratching, and tapping. In this realm, a small number of sound artists on YouTube are churning out ambient soundscapes: lengthy audio-centric videos meant to invoke the feeling of being somewhere else.
Ambient soundscapes take cues from ASMR’s ability to tickle our auditory senses while adding a sprinkle of fantasy into the mix. These digital realms create charming visual and auditory experiences for us to feast on during the quiet parts of our days, while we’re at work, or trying to doze off.
Stumbling upon these videos really felt like pulling a book out of a magical bookcase and gaining access to a secret world. Kind of like Narnia, except there is no witch, just the sounds one might make.
Melinda, who’s account Miracle Forest boasts over 13 million views spread across her dozens of soundscapes, helped explain how these soundscapes are created.
The “Bakery ASMR Ambience” video above was made with her husband, who baked cookies while she recorded it. Usually, though, it’s a “very solitary” job. “Building up a little piece of another world is always a lot of fun,” she says.
Melinda started making ambient soundscapes in 2013, while she was struggling with severe anxiety, and says it helped soothe her. Now, it takes her two to the days to make each soundscape, recording sound on one day, making a visual on another, and then putting them together.
If going places is your jam, why not spend some time in this vintage train car, chugging along by the light of the moon.
It’s no surprise that listening to the sounds of nature, like running water, is believed to help us relax, ease our minds, and help us concentrate.
A captain’s cabin on a pirate ship might sound stressful, but this video manages to create a zen-like environment.
The channel Ambience Lab took things a step further by creating a futuristic city that’s perfect for uninterrupted study time — if you don’t mind the sounds of hovering cars flying by and robotic announcements, that is.
For those interested in visiting fictional places from your favorite books and TV shows, these are for you. There are plenty of weirdly specific “ASMR Rooms” for you to visit.
Here’s a Harry Potter-themed video titled, “Waking up in Hogsmeade Village…”
Or, if you’re in a more royal mood, try watching the sunset from Cersei’s Chamber:
Pay Moaning Myrtle a visit in the Harry Potter-inspired Prefects Bathroom. Spoiler: she appears around the 47 minute mark. Don’t worry, she doesn’t make a sound.
Alas, the time always comes to exit out of the browser and enter the real world again. After spending more than 5 minutes in any of these soundscapes, reality hits like a dull thud, void of crackling flames and secret possibilities. It’s good to know that can return anytime I’d like, though. Sometimes life is just better when the boat is creaking, the wind is howling, and the tea is brewing.