Dun, Dun Duuun! Where did pop culture’s most dramatic sound come from?

Did the iconic three-note sequence come from Stravinsky, the Muppets or somewhere else? Our writer set out to – dun, dun duuuun! – reveal the mystery

There’s surely only one thing that unites Russian composer Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, the 1974 comedy horror Young Frankenstein and The Muppets’ most recent special on Disney+. Regrettably, it is not Kermit the Frog. The thing that appears in all of these works has no easily recognisable familiar name, although it is perhaps one of the most recognisable three-beat musical phrases in history. It starts with a dun; it continues with a dun; it ends with a duuun!

On screen, a dramatic “dun, dun duuun” has appeared in everything from Disney’s Fantasia to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to The IT Crowd. In 2007, a YouTuber scored a video of a melodramatic prairie dog with the three beats, earning over 43m views and a solid place in internet history. Yet though many of us are familiar with the sound, no one seems to know exactly where it came from. Try to Google it and … dun, dun, duuun! Its origins are a mystery.

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