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  #1  
Old 02-03-2005, 11:15 AM
Doctorduck Doctorduck is offline
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Where does that stereotypical "oriental" song come from?

Where does that stereotypical "oriental" song come from? You know, the one that goes dee dee dee dee duh duh dee dee duh. Featured heavily in braindead Hollywood flicks made by clueless directors who want to give a scene an "oriental" feel. Also a variation of it can be heard in David Bowie's "China Girl."

So where does this tune come from? Is it from the East, and if so what country? Or was it written by Westerners to lampoon or mimick Asian music in their movies?
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  #2  
Old 02-03-2005, 11:49 AM
Peter Morris Peter Morris is offline
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Do you mean the overture from The Mikado?
You can hear a sample here
  #3  
Old 02-03-2005, 11:57 AM
Doctorduck Doctorduck is offline
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I don't think so...

None of the "Overture" track that plays on Amazon has the snippet I'm thinking of. I couldn't even tell you where else you might hear the tune I'm thinking of, but suffice to say that it is famous enough to be engrained in the American consciousness. Again, you can hear a variation of it in David Bowie's "China Girl."
  #4  
Old 02-03-2005, 12:18 PM
Doctorduck Doctorduck is offline
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maybe this will read easier

Maybe this approximation is easier to understand:

Dee dee dee dee duh duh, duh duh, DUHHHH
  #5  
Old 02-03-2005, 12:20 PM
Doctorduck Doctorduck is offline
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It's also here:

The Vapors did a song called "Turning Japanese", and this song I'm talking about is featured at the beginning. You can hear it here:

http://209.197.86.65/20041007/punk/Turning_Japanese.mid
  #6  
Old 02-03-2005, 12:49 PM
Carnac the Magnificent! Carnac the Magnificent! is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doctorduck
Maybe this approximation is easier to understand:

Dee dee dee dee duh duh, duh duh, DUHHHH

Huh. Are you sure it isn't:


1) Dee dee dee duh dee duh duh DUHHH (only 3 H's on las duh)

2) Dee dee do duh dee duh do dee do do

3) Hidiho, opal dooo

4) Scooby doobie dooooo
  #7  
Old 02-03-2005, 01:53 PM
leroy_the_mule leroy_the_mule is offline
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"Dee dee dee dee duh duh, duh duh, DUHHHH"
---Yep, I know what you mean. It repeats several times in Kung Fu Fighting
  #8  
Old 02-03-2005, 02:09 PM
Flipshod Flipshod is offline
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I think it's called "Chopsticks" and is related to the two-fingered piano favorite also called Chopsticks. They're both played with just two notes at a time, as if playing with chopsticks.

Don't know where it's from though. Google oriental song and chopsticks and I think you'll get some hits.
  #9  
Old 02-03-2005, 02:25 PM
bordelond bordelond is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Flipshod
I think it's called "Chopsticks" and is related to the two-fingered piano favorite also called Chopsticks. They're both played with just two notes at a time, as if playing with chopsticks.

Don't know where it's from though. Google oriental song and chopsticks and I think you'll get some hits.
Opening notes of "Turning Japanese" != "Chopsticks", I don't believe.

Think it's something else.
  #10  
Old 02-03-2005, 02:32 PM
RevCo RevCo is offline
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I know exactly what he is talking about - can also be heard in games like Civilzation II, Bruce Lee for the C64, and at the beginging of segments that begin "Meanwhile in Saigon..."

He's right - it does go dee dee-dee DUM
dee-dee-dee-dee

Usually ends with a symbol crash/gong sound. Does that put it in better perspective?
  #11  
Old 02-03-2005, 02:37 PM
RevCo RevCo is offline
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Actually the formatting came across wrong:

.............dee-dee-dee-dee-dee
Its dee.......................................... DUM (gong/symbol crash.)
.........................................dee-dee
  #12  
Old 02-03-2005, 02:51 PM
Spectre of Pithecanthropus Spectre of Pithecanthropus is offline
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Shall I start by pointing out that a "song" has someone "singing" it, and instruments-only pieces are not "songs", but "tunes" or "melodies"? No, I think I'm the only one left in the world who cares to split that hair, so I'll leave it unmentioned.

What I assume the OP is referring to is what gives certain East Asian music that characteristic quality. It's largely the scale. Different musical traditions are based on different scales; most Western music was initially based on the major or minor scale; East Asian music is typically based on a five-tone, or pentatonic scale; our regular major/minor scale is nine toned, including both tonics. I don't think it's true that traditional Asian musicians never play the other four tones, but the focus of composition is clearly on the five main ones that they do use. IIRC starting with C the notes would be roughly C/E-flat/G/B-flat/C. Those might only be an approximation, however, some of the notes used might actually occur "between the keys", as it were. The 12-tone chromatic scale is a Western tradition.

Oh, and by the way, the Bowie song goes, "Uh, oh, oh, ow-ohhhh". So I didn't recognize the reference right away.
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Old 02-03-2005, 03:16 PM
Doctorduck Doctorduck is offline
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yeah, but...

I know about the scales... i was wondering about the, er, "tune." That particular one. Where did it come from?
  #14  
Old 02-03-2005, 04:14 PM
F. U. Shakespeare F. U. Shakespeare is online now
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Can't offer anything on its origins, but I think this is one voice of it (in the key of G):


-------
| | | | | | | | |
/ / / / / / / / O
G G G G F F D D F


Apologies for the crappy notation -- it looked better with spaces inserted, but the spaces didn't show up in the post.

IIRC, it's also used in some song by Rush (Passage to Bangkok?)
  #15  
Old 02-03-2005, 04:25 PM
bordelond bordelond is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F. U. Shakespeare
Can't offer anything on its origins, but I think this is one voice of it (in the key of G):


-------
| | | | | | | | |
/ / / / / / / / O
G G G G F F D D F


Apologies for the crappy notation -- it looked better with spaces inserted, but the spaces didn't show up in the post.

IIRC, it's also used in some song by Rush (Passage to Bangkok?)
Would it start with five Gs? When I count it off on my fingers, I get nine notes.
  #16  
Old 02-03-2005, 04:30 PM
HMS Irruncible HMS Irruncible is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F. U. Shakespeare
Can't offer anything on its origins, but I think this is one voice of it (in the key of G):


-------
| | | | | | | | |
/ / / / / / / / O
G G G G F F D D F
I know what you're talking about now. But I don't think it's a named tune and I don't think it is always used in the same way.

Mainly, "asian effect" type music is the result of playing parallel fifths in a major pentatonic scale. It's ridiculously easy to do. Go to a piano, whip out two index fingers, and start playing two black keys with exactly 3 black keys between them. Move up, move down, but always in parallel. Presto. You're now a composer of "oriental-sounding" music.

Warning - don't let the kids see you doing this, or you'll be shelling out for piano lessons for years just to get that basic plinking to stop.
  #17  
Old 02-03-2005, 04:33 PM
bordelond bordelond is offline
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Um ... ten notes.


  #18  
Old 02-03-2005, 05:56 PM
pravnik pravnik is online now
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The same question was asked (and left unanswered) in CS a few days ago:

That Chinese (???) -sounding riff
  #19  
Old 02-04-2005, 08:16 AM
anson2995 anson2995 is offline
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Allow me to reccomend the Musipedia website, which helps you identify a song based on a snippet of melody. You can type in the part you know with a simple code, or just whistle it.

Coolest thing since sliced cheese.
  #20  
Old 02-04-2005, 08:46 AM
Misery Loves Co. Misery Loves Co. is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spectre of Pithecanthropus
Shall I start by pointing out that a "song" has someone "singing" it, and instruments-only pieces are not "songs", but "tunes" or "melodies"? No, I think I'm the only one left in the world who cares to split that hair, so I'll leave it unmentioned.
Umm. . . I'd wanna see the cite on this distinction, particularly since a "melody" is part of a musical work (though not always - see "counterpoint"), and not considered a musical work in and of itself. At least, not according to my theory profs in college. But since your point is unmentioned, I'll drop it, unless you wanna start a thread in GD or CS.
  #21  
Old 02-04-2005, 11:34 AM
Doctorduck Doctorduck is offline
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Charlie Chan

Someone on the other thread mentioned Charlie Chan movies. Can anyone confirm hearing this song in that series?
  #22  
Old 02-04-2005, 01:10 PM
x-ray vision x-ray vision is offline
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I know the tune the OP is talking about. Its the one my cell phone rings too. Its included as a ring tone in the Sanyo RL7300.
  #23  
Old 02-04-2005, 01:17 PM
bordelond bordelond is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by x-ray vision
I know the tune the OP is talking about. Its the one my cell phone rings too. Its included as a ring tone in the Sanyo RL7300.
Might some ring-tone download site have a named copy of it? Or is the name "Turning Japanese"?

Damn ... this is one of the few times I've really seen the board stumped.
  #24  
Old 02-04-2005, 01:34 PM
x-ray vision x-ray vision is offline
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dee-dee dee-dee dee-da-dee-dee--dee dee-dee-da-dee-dee-dee-dee GONG
  #25  
Old 02-04-2005, 01:38 PM
x-ray vision x-ray vision is offline
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drop the last dee
  #26  
Old 02-04-2005, 01:44 PM
x-ray vision x-ray vision is offline
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Got it! Go here and play "asian jingle".
  #27  
Old 02-04-2005, 01:58 PM
Doctorduck Doctorduck is offline
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yeah

that's it on the beginning of the ring tone... not so much the second half of it though
  #28  
Old 02-04-2005, 10:57 PM
shijinn shijinn is offline
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what Carnac said. all the dee dee duh duhs makes no sense to me.


visit Pucca and check out their flash animations' intro ditty, which is similar to x-ray vision's link.
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Old 02-05-2005, 09:30 AM
x-ray vision x-ray vision is offline
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I don't hear an intro ditty. What's supposed to happen when you click "jump"? I'm trying to time my jumps and nothing's happening.
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Old 02-05-2005, 10:40 AM
shijinn shijinn is offline
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i have no idea. i don't get the jump button either.

i didn't realise the link wasn't a direct one. you'll have to click on 'vooz menu' for the dropdown list and click on 'animation', then choose a title from the Pucca's animation list.
  #31  
Old 02-05-2005, 11:42 AM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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It this the tune fragment you are looking for?
  #32  
Old 02-05-2005, 08:54 PM
Doctorduck Doctorduck is offline
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yes, that's it.

yeah, that's the one. so, any clues?
  #33  
Old 02-06-2005, 08:25 AM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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Unfortunately, no. I only posted that score snippet so we could be on the same page; at least we know it's not Chopsticks!

I posted the same link on the Musipedia song search forum, but haven't received any replies yet. As good as that site would be for this kind of search, it doesn't seem to have a large membership.

I tried encoding the motif as Parsons code (see the Musipedia site) and searching on Musipedia. Unfortunately, the Parsons code is so general that it returned 10+ pages of possible tune refs and I didn't spot a good match in the first 3 pages.

When I wrote that snippet in music notation, I had in my head Elton John's Crocodile Rock. I can also recall Spanky & Our Gang using it for Hong Kong Blues, and Henry Mancini using it whenever Mickey Rooney's ersatz oriental character popped up in Breakfast at Tiffany's. It was probably used by every piano player that ever accompanied a silent movie.
  #34  
Old 02-06-2005, 04:04 PM
nitroglycerine nitroglycerine is offline
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No help here, but the riff is also used in the New York Dolls "Bad Detective"(a cover song IIRC)
  #35  
Old 02-06-2005, 04:41 PM
TJdude825 TJdude825 is offline
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Use the "code" tag:

Quote:
Originally Posted by F. U. Shakespeare, recoded by TJdude825
Code:
  ________
 |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |
/  /  /  /  /  /  /  /  O
G  G  G  G  F  F  D  D  F
  #36  
Old 02-06-2005, 04:52 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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I found a promising, then dissapointing, page: Movie Music Folios, piano music intended for silent films. At the top of the contents list for "Sam Fox Moving Picture Music," it says, "Click on a title to play," and some of the titles include Oriental Veil Dance, Chinese Music, and Oriental Music. But the titles are not links and nothing plays. However, the written notes for another folio on the same page say
Quote:
There is also no shortage of Asian or "Oriental" tunes which were steeped in stereotype, and may actually have helped establish the precedent of traditional musical stereotypes for many decades that followed. Similar but equal treatment was offered for Middle-Eastern nationalities as well in the form of Arabian and "Hindoo" melodies.
So close, and yet so far.
  #37  
Old 02-06-2005, 05:58 PM
HMS Irruncible HMS Irruncible is offline
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It is impossible to disprove a negative, so I can't prove my assersion: this particular tune does not have an origin in any particular song. It is less a tune than a sound effect imitating so-called Oriental music forms by using parallel fifths.
Tunes containing parallel fifths and containing mostly sequential quarter notes and eighth notes will often fool the untrained Western ear into thinking they are the same.

I've already heard several people on this thread talk about 3 or 4 distinctly different instances of this form as though they were the same tune. The one that most people seem to agree on, which has also been displayed here in notation, is the sample from the funk tune "Kung Fu Fighting." David Bowie's uses a version of it in "China Girl" that is distinctly different although not dramatically so.

If I'm right, this thread will never identify any origin of this exact tune snippet, but will eventually agree upon the first Western movie or song to make use of a very similar tune.
  #38  
Old 02-06-2005, 06:27 PM
HMS Irruncible HMS Irruncible is offline
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Hereare some excerpts from a paper entitledOrientalism and Musical Style .

Quote:
Originally Posted by Derek B. Scott
Sidney Jones made the more common move from Japan to China, when he followed up his musical success of 1896, The Geisha, with San Toy of 1899. Puccini moved just as easily from Japan to China (Madama Butterfly to Turandot). Ping, Pong and Pang (Turandot) are Chinese stereotypes. Note, especially, their Non v'è in China towards the end of Act II, scene 1, with its staccato chords, glittering timbre (harp, celeste, glockenspiel), pentatonicism, and singing in octaves rather than harmony. In accordance with the ideological assumption that the `lower orders' are more ethnically rooted than the `higher', lowly Liù is given the pentatonic treatment, but not the Prince: see Signore, ascolta! followed by Non piangere, Liù! from Act I. Puccini's augmented triads, gongs, etc. (from Butterfly and Turandot) are inherited by Ketèlbey and paraded in his In a Chinese Temple Garden.

Sir Edwin Arnold's Light of Asia is the inspiration for Fred Weatherly's `Nirvana' (1900, music by Stephen Adams). Here, chinoiserie is constructed by bare fifths, pentatonic melody and the rhythmic pulse of the piano accompaniment... Pentatonicism and parallel fourths are the basic signifiers for chinoiserie; see Ravel's characterisation of the China cup in L'Enfant et les Sortilèges (1925), especially from figure 37 in the orchestral score. (That the parallel fourths are played on the celesta is also significant.)

The twentieth century's most successful Orientalist musical (prior to Miss Saigon) was Chu Chin Chow (music by Frederic Norton, 1916). The film version of 1934 opens with an image of an enormous cake in the shape of a domed palace or Mosque....

The Far Eastern Orientalist style soon passed into dance band music and film music. An example is Ambrose's recording of `A Japanese Dream'.[28] Roy Prendergast has remarked of the `Chinese' music in films of the 1930s and `40s, "The Western listener simply does not understand the symbols of authentic Oriental music as he does those of Western music; therefore, Oriental music would have little dramatic effect for him."[29] An example of more recent pop chinoiserie is David Bowie's `China Girl'...

There is a popular misconception to correct. Orientalist music is not poor imitation of another cultural practice: its purpose is not to imitate but to represent.
I think these exerpts lend weight to my assertion that although we can all recall a specific instance of this form, that the form itself has no named precedent other than the body of western-composed Orientalist music.
  #39  
Old 02-06-2005, 06:32 PM
Josh_dePlume Josh_dePlume is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spectre of Pithecanthropus
most Western music was initially based on the major or minor scale; East Asian music is typically based on a five-tone, or pentatonic scale; our regular major/minor scale is nine toned, including both tonics.
Nine? I would have thought seven-toned (in the same sense that pentatonic is five-toned) or, if you want to include both tonics, eight-toned (hence the octave).
  #40  
Old 02-07-2005, 05:25 PM
Doctorduck Doctorduck is offline
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in retrospect...

I guess I probably should not have mentioned the Bowie song because it clearly does not have the tune I'm talking about-- it only hints at it. And because it only hints at it, I may have confused the reader base here. I'm not referring to the pentatonic "sound" or that stereotypical 'oriental' music aesthetic. I am talking about the specific tune, and I'm sure it's a specific tune rather than a "sound." It's obviously in "Turning Japanese" and "Kung Fu Fighting". Surely we can agree that the snippets featured in these tracks are the same song, right?

(Well, it seems that we're getting somewhere with this. But still, maybe it's worth getting Cecil involved, huh?)
  #41  
Old 02-07-2005, 06:39 PM
HMS Irruncible HMS Irruncible is offline
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I'd love for Cecil to get involved on this one. I don't have access to all the music I cited, otherwise I'd listen to them all.

Here is what I think you'll find - there will be no instance of the precise tune you're talking about before 1974, in Carl Douglas's Kung Fu Fighting. It will turn out to be an adaptation by Douglas et. al. of various pentatonic motifs heard in "oriental" films seen prior to that time. Those in turn will have inherited from forms occurring musicals, operas, and films dating from the first Western portrayals of Far East Orientalism in 1896.

Seen in that light, it will actually turn out to be the most famous in a succession of very similar motifs that have occurred in the past hundred years or so.

That's all I have to say until something more authoritative appears! To prove this assertion wrong, the next step is to find that specific tune occurring before "Kung Fu Fighting." Challenge! (said with French pronounciation).
  #42  
Old 02-07-2005, 10:25 PM
Hail Ants Hail Ants is offline
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I'm surprised its been so difficult to agree on the piece he's asking about. I recognized it immediately. Here's a link to The Vapors CD on Amazon. Play track one (Turning Japanese), the snippet occurs between about 0:11 and 0:14 in the track.

It's probably considered offensive (i.e. politically incorrect) today. Maybe to Asian people what that stereotypical drumbeat, DUM dum dum dum DUM dum dum dum, is to Native Americans. In fact I seem to remember a thread which stated that that indian drumbeat was indeed an invention of Hollywood westerns.

Anyway, this piece of oriental sounding music (usually played on a xylophone) also used to be heard in cartoons, like when a character would be hit on the head with a trash can lid, grow a Fu-Manchu mustache, buckteeth and start spouting, "Chin-chow-chung" etc.
  #43  
Old 02-08-2005, 01:40 AM
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I'm positive the Vapors' appearance ins't the first instance. The opening riff was meant to invoke an asian cliche that everyone had heard before, so it was already a cliche.

I'm 42, and I can clearly recall pop-culture references to that riff when I was in my teens or earlier, perhaps in scooby-doo cartoons and such. And it was cliche even then.

I'd guess the origin is at least in the 60's or earlier.
  #44  
Old 02-08-2005, 02:23 AM
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I too know exactly what the OP is talking about. Unfortunately, I have no idea where it came from.
Quote:
Originally Posted by NattoGuy
Here is what I think you'll find - there will be no instance of the precise tune you're talking about before 1974, in Carl Douglas's Kung Fu Fighting.
I'm fairly certain that's incorrect, because I recall hearing that song for the first time, and thinking, "Ha, ha - they put that little Chinese song in there as a joke". That tune is a sort of musical joke; it's a stereotype of what Westerners think Oriental music sounds like. We used to sing it as kids. I remember it, in the exact same form, as far back as my memory goes.

Where it came from might just be a mystery, just like that "Nyah....nyah, nyah, nyah...nyah" song that kids always sing.
  #45  
Old 02-08-2005, 02:34 AM
HMS Irruncible HMS Irruncible is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blowero
I'm fairly certain that's incorrect, because I recall hearing that song for the first time, and thinking, "Ha, ha - they put that little Chinese song in there as a joke". That tune is a sort of musical joke; it's a stereotype of what Westerners think Oriental music sounds like. We used to sing it as kids. I remember it, in the exact same form, as far back as my memory goes.
And I can remember hearing other subtly different variations of it in old films and television shows. If you were correct, I'd think someone would have turned something up by now (and I've tried as hard as anyone). Personally I think your memory may be playing tricks on you if you think you remember this exact tune, unaltered from the form we're discussing here. It's no slight on your memory, because there are so many subtle variations out there in music and film that sound nearly the same.

At any rate, my WAG from memory is no better than anyone else's, and none of us can seem to dig up the tune, so I guess we are not able to arrive at a conclusion.
  #46  
Old 02-08-2005, 02:57 AM
blowero blowero is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NattoGuy
And I can remember hearing other subtly different variations of it in old films and television shows.
No, what you heard was a different tune. Just because you've heard other pentatonic-sounding riffs in your life doesn't mean they're variations on this one. The one we're talking about here is always a note iterated 4 times followed by a note a whole step lower iterated twice, followed by a note a minor third lower, iterated twice, and then back up a minor third, iterated once. And I have a pretty good memory for those things. Besides, you could call any of my brothers, say, "Sing the oriental riff from when you were a kid", and I guarantee they'd all sing the exact same riff.

Or perhaps you have heard variations of it, but that doesn't mean it didn't exist in the form we're talking about, before "Kung Foo Fighting".
Quote:
If you were correct, I'd think someone would have turned something up by now
Why do you say that? You think it doesn't exist because a bunch of dudes on a message board can't find it's exact origin? I disagree.
Quote:
Personally I think your memory may be playing tricks on you if you think you remember this exact tune, unaltered from the form we're discussing here. It's no slight on your memory, because there are so many subtle variations out there in music and film that sound nearly the same.
Squeegee remembers it too - before "Kung Foo Fighting". I'm gonna have to disagree with you here. Nothing personal, but I'm reasonably certain that, as squeegee said, it was a reference to an already-existing riff.
  #47  
Old 02-08-2005, 04:35 AM
HMS Irruncible HMS Irruncible is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blowero
Or perhaps you have heard variations of it, but that doesn't mean it didn't exist in the form we're talking about, before "Kung Foo Fighting".
Either I've misstated my position, or you've misunderstood it.

First, I do remember hearing, both in recent and distant memory, different variations on the tune in which only the first beat (the "da da da da" in this thread's parlance) was varied, with the rest of it remaining the same. Close variants exist. I think that, prior to "Kung Fu Fighting" in 1974, the tune in question probably existed. But it probably coexisted with dozens of such variants. It was just one of many in the "big barrel of 99-cent stock oriental riffs." None were famous enough to merit any named mention.

All versions were fairly forgettable; the reason you and your brothers instinctively respond with this specific variant is that it's been popularized recently in a couple of well-known songs. You re-remember that this popularized version was the one that appeared throughout your childhood. It's like the people who say they remember seeing the Kennedy assassination on TV when it happened in 1963. They're remembering footage that was in fact released almost a decade later. It may sound presumptive of me to say that, but you're the one who said unequivocally that there weren't any variants of this fairly generic tune. Doesn't that sound really unlikely after thinking about it again?

I prefer things to have answers rather than not have answers, but I really don't think we'll find an original source on this.

Quote:
Why do you say that? You think it doesn't exist because a bunch of dudes on a message board can't find it's exact origin? I disagree.
Well, I think we're a fairly smart bunch of dudes, and we've wrung the marrow out of the question fairly well. Either you'll agree or you won't.

Since we all know which tune is in question and it's basically one person's memory against another, there's no sense in me posting in this one anymore. I just leave you with the fact that if you're to disprove my theory, you'll have to find an instance of the tune before 1974. Having taken the negative side, I on the other hand am in the convenient position of being able to invoke "it is impossible to prove a negative."

So I'll be watching the thread with interest.
  #48  
Old 02-08-2005, 05:05 AM
Crandolph Crandolph is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NattoGuy
I think that, prior to "Kung Fu Fighting" in 1974, the tune in question probably existed. But it probably coexisted with dozens of such variants.
There are variations of the tune in The Hollies' "Oriental Sadness," as well as in two instrumentals that "surf" type bands recorded a lot in Europe in the early to mid 60s, "Changhai" and "Hong Kong." I believe Les Sauterelles (sp?) had a minor hit in continental Europe with the latter. So that brings it back as an established stereotype at least a decade earlier.

In the US you also had a rash of quite racist tunes with variations among garage and surf bands in the same period.

I'm going to check some of the anti-Japanese tunes (I know, wrong ethnic group, but I've a feeling "all those people look alike" to the composers...) I have from the 40s to see if they draw on that directly. You may well find variations in racist hot jazz tunes from the 1920s as well, but no particular titles come to mind offhand.

Earlier than that the best bet in tracking it in popular music is likely sheet music. I'd be shocked in there aren't racist "Oriental" joke songs from the turn of the last century or earlier whose sheet music still exists. Anyone up on those collections?
  #49  
Old 02-08-2005, 08:08 AM
squeegee squeegee is online now
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Nattoguy, I'm not sure why you're relying on "Kung Fu Fighting" as the seminal instance of the "that chinese song" melody. KFF came out as a result of the popularity of the "Kung Fu" TV series. KFF was a throw-away pop-tune meant to capitalize on the fad-du jour, and it felt like it. I was about 12 at the time, and remember both pretty well. That darned song was on the radio for weeks, and I hated it, as only a 12-year-old could.

In my opinion, the opening riff was invoking a cliche that already existed. I think you're saying the same thing, but that before KFF the cliche was one of many, but KFF made that riff definitive in the our shared consciousness. I disagree, it felt immediately cliche when that song started to play. Sadly, I have little proof to offer other than that.
  #50  
Old 02-08-2005, 08:15 AM
squeegee squeegee is online now
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OK, here's an instance of the "Chinese Riff" that would predate KFF, if we could track it down:

There's a Warner Brother's Tweetie & Sylvester cartoon that I'm pretty sure contains the melody, and would have been made in the 50's or 60's. I don't recall the plot, but the ending had Sylvester hit by something so large, or falling so far, that he went splat through the planet and ends up in China. You see Sylvester plop out of the earth with the perspective inverted - the sky below. The camera turns over and we see Sylvester gawking at pagodas and other chinese brik-a-brak. Queue "Chinese Riff", exactly the same as KFF, and just as cliched in this instance. A Chinese Tweetie appears, and says in jibberish fake Chinese, with subtitles, "I thought I saw a puddy tat."

Ring a bell, anyone?
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