Oh that’s too bad, that guy did an absolutely phenomenal job of investigating the question. The page can still be viewed here, albeit with some broken images: The Musical Cliché Figure Signifying The Far East: Whence, Wherefore, Whither?
Sorry to dredge up an old thread, but believe it or not, I’ve been waiting many years for there to be enough content on the internet to be able to find these things. The advent of youtube has made a huge difference.
Great research. The first clip isn’t the exact “oriental riff”, but it has all the elements of the memory that seems to be in many people’s collective consciousness, including the woodblock sound. The second clip does have the exact melody.
I am excited because I believe I have found the earliest instance of the exact “oriental riff” to date:
“Chop Suey”; August 24th, 1930; produced by Paul Terry and directed by Frank Moser for Terrytoons Studios
On youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Eczf92kKB4
The riff occurs 47 seconds in, and is repeated with additional thematic material added.
Website on the asian riff: http://chinoiserie.atspace.com/
Don’t be, that is one of my all-time favourite GQ questions. Good find.
Yes, this does seem to be the exact riff, albeit without the parallel fourths.
I found this thread when I googled “oriental song” to try to find the name and origins of that widely used cliche music. The answer was pretty interesting but the really interesting thing was the extensive, juvenile arguing and name calling that went on and on and on in the thread that accompanies this one. I am going to have to locate other contributions from those individuals. They are very entertaining!
Chop Suey.Mambo, from 1954.
Hear it, is on Youtube. Nice song.
This site mentions “A Nintendo game,” but doesn’t seem to specify which one. Did it perhaps mean Super Mario Land? For added context, it’s the background music to Chai Kindom, a pastiche of China, even featuring Jiangshi.
Interestingly, Super Mario Land is a Japanese-made game. So apparently the riff is what East Asia associates with China specifically. So I guess it’s like how “Yankee” is a New Englander who eats pie for breakfast.
OK, another sighting. The tune is not exactly the same, but the pattern is pretty close. This was published in 1913, so the melody would obviously have been pretty well established by then. This has a list of “stock music” for silent movies. The particular entry is “Chinese Music” and you hear it several seconds in.
Apparently so. I remember it being verbalized once in a series of short clips made in Japan for a Japanese audience. I was kind of surprised to find the right clip on the first try, until I noticed it is used in lots of the clips where Ayaka is wearing a cheongsam.