“Plinky plunk, A Chinese Elopmement” sheet music from 1930s USA

The “Oriental Theme”

Sun Ra the black liberationist, spaceman and jazz musician in¬†“Overtones Of China”(1957) ¬†unconsciously perhaps, repeats the old tradition of exotic stereotyping in defining musical Chineseness as wood blocks, gongs and pentatonic piano stabs. In essence the piece is an evolved jazz version of the ‘Oriental Theme’ that serves to evoke Orientalism¬†in the western imagination. The tune, a nine note phrase, is found throughout modern popular music most famously in the introduction to Carl Douglas’s ‘Kung fu fighting‘ , The Vapour’s ‘Turning Japanese’, and David Bowie’s “China Girl”:

Oriental Theme MIDI File

Read the rest of this entry »