Monday, May 24, 2010

Breaking down the Law & Order noise

The last chung-chung from Law & Order (at least on NBC) rings tonight, although it will continue to sound in perpetuity of syndication. Here's how Mike Post made the noise:
"I think of it as the stylized sound of a jail cell locking," says the 48-year-old Emmy-winning composer, who also wrote the theme music for Crime & Punishment. "I wanted to add something that's very distinctive but not a literal sound. What I tried to do was jar a little bit." Instead of the electric piano, guitar, and clarinet for which he scored the opening theme, Post synthesized his chung CHUNG electronically, combining six or seven different sounds to get the right dead-bolt effect. One of the eeriest adds: the sound of 500 Japanese men stamping their feet on a wooden floor. "It was a sort of monstrous Kabuki event," he says. "Probably one of those large dance classes they hold. They did this whole big stamp. Somebody went out and sampled that."

The result — which lasts all of maybe a second and a half — does its dark work effectively. "There's very little music in Law & Order, and very little is needed," says Post. "It's odd, to be honest, when you've written a theme that you think is very musical and what everybody wants to talk about is The Clang."

Of course he also wrote the theme for Crime & Punishment!

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Blogger Katy on Tue May 25, 09:46:00 AM:
A few years ago, my roommates and I spent an entire dark New England winter watching endless Law & Order reruns every night. The highlight of our evening was always "singing" the theme song together. We each had different parts that we would do. I did the intro "da-DUM!"
Blogger Meg on Thu Jun 03, 12:48:00 PM:
Sesame Street did a sketch that parodied it. Pretty funny for mom. 3 year old had no idea.