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Why The Iconic Law And Order Sound Means More Than You Think

Long before "Law and Order" was the ubiquitous, procedural drama with many spinoffs, Dick Wolf and composer Mike Post were just two guys that worked on the show "Hill Street Blues." Speaking about his experience during an episode of Squadroom: Law and Order: SVU Podcast, Post recalled that after Steven Bochco had left the show, new executive producer "David [Milch] was hiring writers, and one of these writers was Dick Wolf." 

Post explained that he initially liked Wolf as a writer, but as soon as they met, they became fast friends. This friendship would become stronger when a few years after "Hill Street Blues” ended, Wolf invited Post for a drink to discuss a new series idea he had. Wolf's idea was a courtroom and police drama, and it was going to be different from any others on television. Wolf told Post, "The first half hour we will do the crime, and the bad guys, and the cops. And the second half hour we'd do the prosecution, and the trial and the defense, and do the lawyers" (via Squadroom). Post liked the idea and immediately became involved, working on what would premiere as "Law & Order" in 1990. 

But the day before they were done with the pilot, Wolf asked Post to make a sound to go with scene changes. Despite having an extensive library of audio to use, coming up with the perfect sound that would be used over and over took some creativity, and fans of the "Law & Order" franchise will probably be surprised at what Post ended up using.

The audio of 500 Japanese men stamping their feet completed the iconic sound

Mike Post combined several different sounds to get the effect he was looking for, and acknowledges that probably the strangest addition was "the sound of 500 Japanese men stamping their feet on a wooden floor. 'It was sort of a 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'" (via Entertainment Weekly). Combined with a jail door slamming, a hammer hitting an anvil, and some drums, Post finally had the iconic sound the show needed.

To this day, the sound is instantly recognizable as pertaining to "Law & Order," or one of its many spinoffs. Whether you call it the "chung chung," "doink doink," "doon doon," or, like Post, the "ching ching" or "the clang," Post admits he finds it odd that people are so fascinated with the sound. But considering he gets a separate royalty credit every time it's used, as he stated in an old interview with the Archive of American Television (via Television Academy Foundation), he's probably not doing too much complaining about it.