The Truth Behind The Iconic Law & Order Dun-Dun Noise

Everyone's favorite television procedural, "Law & Order" carries a wealth of interesting facts, and that's only right considering how long it's run on television. Many actors have gotten their start as guests on "Law & Order" and its spin-offs, and longtime actors on the show even have their own fun trivia. For example, one "Law & Order" regular started out as a janitor. Sadly, though, we've also lost some beloved "Law & Order" actors throughout the years.

When we think of trivia about the television staple, we may think of the fact that "Law & Order: SVU" was inspired by a real case. While this is fascinating, we should also stop and think about the iconic "Dun-Dun" noise that graces the beginning of each episode. It's a hallmark sound, one that signifies entrance into a world where crimes are especially heinous and the justice system has our back. In a way, it's an escape, because the real world can be even darker. But where did this noise originally come from, and why was it chosen as the opener for every episode of "Law & Order?"

Series creator Mike Post wanted a 'distinctive' opener

The "Dun-Dun" noise that opens every episode of "Law & Order" has become one of the most iconic sounds in television history. Perhaps this is because the series has run for so long, or maybe because it's so effective. The "Dun-Dun" sound is strong and full of conviction, serious, and sharp. It's synonymous with the franchise to the point that people will inherently think of the various series when they hear it. After all, everyone knows it because the shows have been around for so long — even for viewers who don't watch them regularly.

But what does it represent? According to series composer Mike Post, the sound symbolizes the slamming of a jail cell door (via Entertainment Weekly). "I think of it as the stylized sound of a jail cell locking," Post told Entertainment Weekly in 2003. "I wanted to add something that's very distinctive but not a literal sound. What I tried to do was jar a little bit."

For Post, the music used in the series had to be intentional, purposeful, and impactful. "There's very little music in Law & Order, and very little is needed," he explained. This is, in part, because the "Dun-Dun" effectively sets the tone of each episode as soon as it begins. 

How the dun-dun sound is made

Even more interesting is how the iconic "Dun-Dun" noise is made. According to Vox, "Law & Order" series creator Dick Wolf concocted the idea for the show to have minimal music, and composer Mike Post, with whom Wolf was in personal contact, brought that dream to life. (Post originally refused the job, as he described in an interview with the Television Academy Foundation, but later agreed.)

After he gave in, Post set out to create a sound that would define the series, and as we now know, he succeeded. According to Post's 2003 interview with Entertainment Weekly, the "Dun-Dun" sound was formed, in part, from 500 Japanese men "stamping their feet on a wooden floor."

"It was a sort of monstrous Kabuki event," Post told Entertainment Weekly. "Probably one of those large dance classes they hold. They did this whole big stamp. Somebody went out and sampled that." From there, Post created the sound we know and love today.

How does the iconic sound make you feel when you hear it? Would you ever have been able to tell it comes from men stamping their feet?