The Social Network’s first-time film composer Trent Reznor was both relieved and disappointed that director David Fincher asked for a synth-based, as opposed to an orchestral score for the movie. From all his years with Nine Inch Nails, Reznor was obviously more comfortable with the former, but had been looking forward to expanding his musical boundaries with the latter. Co-writer Atticus Ross, who had just finished The Book of Eli, had worked with Reznor for over 10 years on many other projects. The director wanted to make an iconic film like Blade Runner and asked them to use Tangerine Dream as a reference point.
Earlier this year, after they had read the script and seen a 40-minute rough cut, they went into the studio and began experimenting. “Rather than thinking, this piece of music might be good for this scene, we decided to work on an impressionistic level,” Reznor explained. “We thought we’d use an acoustic piano as the centerpiece emotionally. The melody and any sense of frailty would come from that. We dropped that piano into a bed of electronics and static set dressings. In the next few weeks we created about 70 pieces of music from three to-six-minutes long.”
Those pieces of music were sent to Fincher, as Reznor put it, “To see if anything was even close.” The composers were expecting to “go back to the well many times.” Right off the bat they hit a nerve with Fincher, and shortly thereafter, they viewed another rough-cut, this time with their music, and were blown away. Reznor confided, “It was a very different film than what we had seen before. It implied a lot more emotionally and was much less familiar and much more comfortable.”
Of course, they still had a lot of writing to do and reworking of pieces to fit later edits, but the tone had been set and they were amazed at Fincher’s ability to place music. For instance, they never envisioned the cue they wrote to be used for the opening scene, but thought it worked perfectly.
Ross summed it up, “I feel incredibly proud that it doesn’t feel like individual pieces of music, but like a comprehensive score that enhances the storytelling.”