Monday, November 8, 2010

That's Not Noise, That's Music

About half-way through The Social Network, my father leaned forward, turned his head towards me and said in a voice that did not suggest he was in a crowded theater "what is that noise that keeps playing behind all the talking?" My response, "it's called a soundtrack."

One of the things that makes The Social Network worth seeing again and again (I have now seen it three times) is the way that it perfectly melds all the crucial elements of filmmaking. The direction, the acting, the storytelling, the writing and yes, the soundtrack. The fact that my father called out the soundtrack means that the soundtrack was worth noticing. And how could it not be noticed, it was created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Each song, a menace. Each chord a dark fuzz that scratches the eardrums. Reznor creates the twisted darkness that Danny Elfman only wishes he could.

But what makes the soundtrack work is not just the soundtrack itself, but how it is used. It's practically a character in the movie. Setting tone, creating emotion and most importantly, moving things along. Songs like A Familiar Taste and It Catches Up With You perfectly capture the darkness of what is unfolding, but do it in such a way as to still suggest progress. It's brooding and uplifting at the same time. And Reznor and Ross' take on In The Hall of the Mountain King, along with Fincher's coverage of the crew race is really something to behold.

I have purchased the soundtrack and I randomly listen to it in the car. Each piece of music brings me back to the film. To each scene. The run across campus. The slo-motion shots of the Phoenix party. The music is literally intertwined with the film. Just as strong as the writing, the acting and the direction. It may be noise to my old man, but it's a pretty damn good soundtrack to me.


J.D. said...

Yeah, I really enjoyed the soundtrack as well and plan to get it from iTunes one of these days. I always wished that Reznor would start doing soundtrack work and it makes perfect sense that he would hook up with Fincher as their sensibilities tend to dovetail rather nicely.

PIPER said...

Completely agree.

I remember when Reznor was asked by Lynch to write a piece for Lost Highway. Lynch said that he wanted Reznor to create a song that conjured images of of snakes crawling all over your face. Reznor then created "Perfect Drug".

I really am in awe of how well all the pieces work together in The Social Network.

Thanks for the comment J.D. I've got time on my hands now so I'll be updating regularly. Stop back often.

Ed Howard said...

Agreed, it's a great soundtrack. Reznor is sometimes too easily dismissed because NIN appeals so completely to teenage sensibilities, but there's more to his music than that. He's popped up and smoothed out some of the hard edges of the early industrial music pioneers who he admires, but he's done it largely in order to amp up the slow, creeping menace at the core of the music. That's why most of his best music tends to be his quietest (like this soundtrack) rather than the big metal anthems. His new project How To Destroy Angels (named after a great early Coil album, a nod to his primary influence) treads some musically similar ground to the Social Network soundtrack, though the vocals (by his wife, mostly) are a little disappointing.

PIPER said...

Thanks Ed, I'm going to have to check that stuff out.

J.D. said...

Good call on his work on LOST HIGHWAY. I had always wanted Lynch to give Reznor more soundtrack space on the project but with so many other brilliant musicians (Barry Adamson, Angelo Badalamenti) I'm sure it was tough to find space for them all but I liked what Reznor did for the film. It was the hint of things to come. I also agree with Ed that Reznor's more quiet, menacing stuff (i.e. "Help Me I Am In Hell") is best but I also dig his aggro stuff ("Burn" off the NATURAL BORN KILLERS soundtrack is pretty awesome) too.

Jason Bellamy said...

It's the leader in the clubhouse as the best soundtrack/score of the year thus far. For sure.

I've downloaded it to my iPod, and some of the less distinctive tracks aren't all that evocative to me when taken individually (separated from the movie and played outside of their place within the entire score), but I wear out "Hand Covers Bruise" and "In Motion," particularly on my dark 6:30 am walks into the work, where I'm in the midst of a huge website redesign project. Just seems appropriate.

PIPER said...


I can think of no better music to listen to in the dark, walking to work than Hand Covers Bruise. And while we're on the subject, how great is that title. A lot of soundtrack titles describe the scenes they go with rather than the emotions. I love this. And you're right, the further you get in to the album the less the songs stick with you, but the first five or so are fantastic.

DTW said...

Soundtracks bore me so much. If it's overbearing, it ruins a film; if it's "good", I don't notice it. So what's the point of it? I much prefer no music.