Hello, world! Listen up!

Many years ago, a friend of mine asked, “You know that sneaky music? That ‘daht daht dee DAAAA yat-dat-dat-dat-da.’ What IS that? Everyone knows it, but where does it come from?”

I knew exactly what he was talking about. I’d heard it in cartoons and old movies. It even appears in “Existential Blues” by T-Bone Stankus, a staple of the Dr. Demento generation, at about the 2:46 mark. But what is it? Where does it come from?

Or how about that little Asian-music shorthand that shows up everywhere, like in Rush’s “A Passage to Bangkok” at about 0:08?

Or, getting away from music, why do we always hear the shriek of the same damned Red-Tailed Hawk whenever a movie wants to tell us that there are birds around? Where did that sound effect come from?

After being obsessed with questions like these for many years, I decided to do something about it:

Hello, World, I’d like to make a blog with you.

The Sound and the Foley will be an effort to put a history of all these recycled sounds in one place. I hope to uncover the secret life of all these little pieces of aural shorthand, and put together a sort of audio-birdwatcher’s guide for the curious. I hope that readers will also get involved, speaking up whenever they spot a new instance of each sound in the wild, or asking questions when they grow curious about something they’ve heard time and time again.

Dear Listeners, let us explore these little bits of media together.

Do you have ideas? Questions? Answers? Please let me know!

(P.S. — For the record, I do have history for the red-tailed hawk and the “Asian” tune, and I will write about them in the upcoming weeks. However, I still have no idea where the sneaky music comes from. Any and all hints are appreciated!)


  1. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that “sneaky music” in Looney Tunes cartoons. It probably predates those, too, but I knew I’d heard it in one of the Squirrel Nut Zippers’ songs, and I tracked it down to the title track from Bedlam Ballroom. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ne0fKb_HxGI It’s the very opening of it.

    I know everyone everywhere has talked about the Wilhelm Scream, but I’m not sure any foley blog could be complete without a discussion of it. (I also thought it would be funny (but annoying) to have it autoplay when someone opens your blog. ;D )

    Hoping my comment doesn’t get eaten again,

    1. Hooray for Sneaky Music! Thanks for the tip. I’ll happily mention the Squirrel Nut Zippers when I write that article.

      The article on the Wilhelm Scream goes live in about 15 minutes. Naturally, I had to start the actual blog content with that. 🙂

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