“The Social Network” Soundtrack, A (brief) Listening Guide

Trent-Reznor-and-Atticus-Ross-Album-Cover

It’s won an Academy Award for Best Soundtrack. Sure, you’ve seen the movie, but the question is, did you listen to the music?  For those of you who haven’t bought the soundtrack, go do it, it’s well worth the $8.  I’ve spent my first few blissful post-semester days listening closely and I’m increasingly convinced that there is much more to this soundtrack that meets the ear.

What’s interesting about the soundtrack reviews is that they can easily be divided into two camps:  those written by musicians and those who write ABOUT music.  Unless you have some knowledge of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ artistic tendencies, it’s easy to just call the score an unmemorable hodgepodge of electronica/heavy metal/industrial rock babble. This is simply NOT the case. Here andhere are thoughtful reviews that provide interesting insights.

This post isn’t going to be a review of the soundtrack, it’s more of a things-to-consider-while-listening.  As you listen, consider how the music adds to the drama on the screenplay.  It’s very subtle, this is the brillance of the score.  The movie audience is manipulated by the underpinning of musical styles that are presented.

Here we go.  I encourage you to either listen along or watch and focus on the music during the movie. 

1. “Hand Covers Bruise” – This album’s top selling track on iTunes.  Many reviewers point to this as the “theme song” of the movie.  I’m not convinced of this, it’s more the beginning, simple, yet underneath you hear a bass drone paired with a scratching almost violin sounding drone.  Focus on the bass drones, this is one of many signatures found Reznor’s music.  The dichotomy of the sweet and simple piano against the drones sets the stage for the drama that is about to unfold.

2. “In Motion” –  This is the music from the scene of the first Phoenix club party while Zuckerburg sits at home and creates “Facemash.”  Notice the thumping bass…(Zuckerburg’s heart, perhaps?) is combined with the synthesized melodic interruptions.  The movie goer’s pulse will race as the excitment of what is happening on screen occurs.

3. “A Familiar Taste” – This music accompanies the party as it gets wilder, more risque.  The “Facemash” has been released into the wild.  The wetness or reverb that is attached to this music can be described as industrial.

4. “It Catches Up With You” – Not surprisingly, the women at Harvard are not happy about Facemash. The “orchestration” returns to piano, this time a sonic dissonance with strong open fifths is added to the pedal point.  Things aren’t aren’t simple and happy as the listener might have felt in the introduction.

5. “Intriguing Possibilities” – The Harvard Connection idea is introduced. We don’t get to hear this full track, only snippets of the beginning.  However, this is a great track that crescendos from beginning to end through depth of samples to a climatic, yet surprising, major chord ending.

6. “Painted Sun In Abstract” – “People don’t walk around with a sign on them saying I’m…”  The idea is born!  The audience can see it all unfolding before their eyes.  This is it.  This is a transitory track. Ostinatos, both rhythmic and harmonic, help move the idea along. “It’s ready, when does it go online?”

7. “3:14 Every Night” – “Zuckerburg stole the website!”  Listen to this one with headphones on.  The depth or thickness of this track truly unscores the intensity of this moment.

8. “Pieces Form the Whole” – Back to the deposition.  Just a small amount of this track is in the movie.  Like with other tracks, and Reznor’s music in general, the track grows with the addition of sound samples and melodic voices that are transformed digitally.

9. “Carbon Prevails” – This track begins in the deposition then follows the scene into the restuarant.  Guitar combined with a synthsized, ghostly singing rides above the eighth note bass ostinato.

10. “Eventually We Find Our Way” – “Good luck with your video game.”  The bed of harmonic and rhythmic pulse plays in the background and underscores the tension found in the scene. His ex-girlfriend doesn’t accept his apology and the score doesn’t resolve, only fades through a synthesized sustain.

11. “Penetration” – Trip to New York to meet with potential advertisers.  Rocking piano through a thinly veiled harmonies.

12. “In the Hall of the Mountain King” – Regatta scene.  Many have argued the choice wasn’t great and even Reznor jokes that his marriage almost ended with this track.  However, with a tip of the hat toWendy Carlos, modern day digital technologies and a terrific accelerando to the end, this scene is memorable.  Pay particular attention to the end. The distortion teamed with changes in amplification place the exclamation point on the loss of the race.

13. “On We March” – “Angel investment of a half million dollars.” A slow, brooding shuffle in which the melody is led by synthesized piano.  This was probably transition music that wasn’t needed in the final cut, with only a small bit used in the film.  Notice the duet between the “simple” piano and “uncontrolled” guitar-like melody line.

14. “Magnetic” – This track didn’t make the movie.  Please let me know if you hear it in the movie. Perhaps in the club or in the airport?  Musicially, notice that the key structure between tracks is  descending while the rhythmic pulse is accelerating.

15. “Almost Home” – Eduardo realizes he’s been cut out of the company.  Dense harmony and a crescendoing pedal point underscore the tension of the scene.

16. “Hand Covers Bruise, Reprise” – Eduardo is kicked out of Facebook headquarters.  The first track returns, this time with no resolution, only chord cluster dissonances that are digitally manipulated as the scene plays out.

17. “Complication With Optimistic Outcome” – Didn’t make the movie. (Or, did I miss it? Let me know.)

18. “The Gentle Hum of Anxiety” – Mark is wrapping up his day at the Facebook offices and finds out Sean has been arrested.  A tritone ostinato combined with a lower octave pedal accompany piano as its atonal melodic line never resolves or rests, except to repeat the pattern. Fitting for the mental state of the Mr. Zuckerburg.

19. “Soft Trees Break the Fall” – Music that is heard during the credits.  Calming? Soothing? Unsettling? Questioning?…Perhaps all of these.  How has society changed with this new way of communication?

 

Here are some interviews that are straight from the source.

Trent Reznor discusses The Social Network Soundtrack

Interview with Trent Reznor and David Fincher (director)

Interesting how one of the leading music magazines in the country, Rolling Stone, gives this soundtrack a brief review and only gives it three stars. Yes, I know, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

 

“I want to thank you like an animal.” Trent before (left) and after (right).

trent1TrentReznor2

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