How many of you saw that subject header and immediately thought of this?
That distinctive noise is often called the “donk donk” or the “chung chung” or the “doink doink” or the “Dick Wolf Cash Register Sound” (that last one is thanks to Richard Belzer). It is the sound that signals scene changes in the Law & Order family of TV shows, and it is so ubiquitous that it’s even more recognizable than the theme song.
The Donk Donk (as I will call it, because that amuses me) is the work of Mike Post, who also wrote the Law & Order music. According to IMDB, the Donk Donk “was created by combining close to a dozen sounds, including that of a group of monks stamping on a floor.” Wikipedia adds that two more of the sounds were an actual gavel and a slamming jail door. (I’m curious what the other nine sounds were. Does anyone out there know how to contact Mike Post?)
If you don’t at least know the name of Mike Post, you should. Mr. Post is one of the most notable composers who ever worked in TV land. Aside from Law & Order, he created the themes for The Rockford Files, L.A. Law, Magnum P.I., Quantum Leap, Hill Street Blues, The A-Team, CHiPs, Stingray, The Greatest American Hero, and many, many others. (I can personally attest that a third of the ringtones on my phone were written by this man, and that I have sung the Greatest American Hero song at karaoke.)
The Who even wrote a song about Mike Post, called the “Mike Post Theme”. Mike Post is just that cool.
For the record, Mr. Post refers to the Donk Donk as “The Clang”. [CORRECTION: eagle-eyed reader Scott Keever has pointed me to this interview of Mike Post discussing the Donk Donk and referring to it as the Ching Ching. Good stuff! Start watching at 18:25.]