Trent Reznor’s 5 Significant Movie Scores

Nine Inch Nails man talks movie soundscapes...

By Josh Winning for Totalfilm on October 13, 2010

1. Jaws (1975)

"The Jaws music really impacted the way I saw that movie at an early stage of my life. It terrified me.

The music added to the fear of the film. I realised early on that music in the context of a film can really steer and manipulate you emotionally and it stuck with me."

2. Eraserhead (1976)

"When you watch Eraserhead [you think] 'Why am I feeling crazy?' Then you realise, 'Oh, there's a really loud hum coming out of a radiator.’

And I think back when I was working on Downward Spiral around that era, kind of mid-90s, early ‘90s, I really looked at Lynch’s films as a lesson book in a way; I could make that happen with music.

In that era, I was very much interested in being uncomfortable, and creating feelings of dread and tension, so that was that."

3. Halloween (1978)

"I just re-watched the original Halloween a couple of days ago. The music is brilliant and it certainly wouldn’t be the same film - which scarred me more than any film I'd ever seen at that point when it came out - if the music was different.

The interesting thing about inspiration, the important one to me, was what Carpenter did with his inspiration, that's what affected me at a time in my life and culturally, where I was at.

I can't say that I consciously studied films that inspire me when I worked on The Social Network. But certainly subconsciously, with a track like 'In Motion', I needed something to propel the scene forward and give a sense of urgency.

And it struck me just a couple of days ago re-watching Halloween, the way Carpenter was just using stuff like frequence synthesisers, and the pulsing kind of, pensive motion really, that has crept into my subconscious, and I'm sure I was referencing him. But it wasn't a thought-out thing."

4. Blade Runner (1982)

"Blade Runner is one of the all time greats, and I think that score frames the film in a very identifiable and brave and unusual setting, that really elevates that film up to what it is, certainly for me it's a pretty integral part of what it is.

So that was referenced as things to be thinking about when we were creating The Social Network soundtrack.

I went into my studio with my partner Atticus Ross and we just started thinking about the moods and the themes. We generated most of what ended up in the film in about three weeks.

David responded positively and we started setting them down in scenes, and this is a new world for me. And I watch a lot of films, bit I have to admit, I rarely... I watch them as a movie-goer, not so much as a composer studying how a score works under a scene, I kind of just want to enjoy the film.

I find myself not really paying much attention to the score separately unless it either jumps out of the screen as being excellent or terrible.

So when I started thinking about how to score this film, I said, 'Well, I don't really know what I'm doing here, but let me just try to emotionally evoke what I feel might really frame this film, propel some scenes or maybe bring out a bit of darkness, or tap into the underlying emotion underneath what's happening.

I was very, very, kind of, blown away when we put the music over certain scenes, because they weren't composed specifically for these scenes.

It became a different film. And that first cut that I saw, which just had some music put in, different music, and its funny how different the film seems.

The opening, the title segment, right after the bar break-up, when Zuckerberg's walking across the campus, that in a very early cut just had some kind of college rock music.

And once you get out of the bar scene, the break-up, and now you can catch your breath, and the titles rolling, and you hear a kind of, everything's okay, college rock song, the movie seems much more light-hearted..."

5. The Social Network (2010)

"Fincher initially approached me late fall, last year and I was excited about taking on a project, but I had just stepped off the tour bus, after touring for what seemed like five years of on and off.

I had just got married, and I promised myself I was going to take some time off, and just allow myself to get centred before I dive into another consuming project, which is kind of how I tend to work.

So I got the call from him, and I was excited because I'd always been interested in getting into scoring something, and there'd be no better place to start than with David, who I very much admire and am a fan of his work. So I got the script and the script was excellent and I thought it was an interesting choice because it wasn't what seemed like familiar territory for me.

If it was going to be Halloween for example, I think I'd know what to do in that, but here's a very wordy drama that deals with a lot of greed and entitlement, betrayal. I went, I'm interested in it, but the bottom line was I had to tell him no at that time.

If I'm being honest with myself I was really lacking any confidence and I had to to kind of keep my promise to myself to not just say yes to every exciting thing that comes up.

A few months went by, during which he shot the film and I felt terrible about saying no to him, and I got back in touch just to say: 'I'm in. Once again, I'm sorry, it's not you, it's me. I wasn't in a place where I could give you 110% because I was just burnt out. It's not the material, I'm sorry.' And he said, 'Well, we're still waiting on you to do it; get over here and let's start.'

So at that point the film was shot and he showed me maybe the first 40 minutes of the film in a very rough cut. Now I was familiar with the script and now had a sense of what it looks like and I could see the pace of the dialogue and also how well the actors had made these roles come to life.

We decided not to use an orchestra. David knew what he was looking for; he referenced Tangerine Dream and some synth, iconic type scores.

But the way I ended up arranging it was, in a lot of ways, voiced as if it were orchestral. I can think of several different parts where everything was being treated as separate instruments.

When we delivered the music to the mixing stage we delivered it in a format where it was broken down to individual components enough that everything could be placed around in a 7.1 field, to sit around dialogue.

A lot of mixing actually took pace right in the final mix of the film, so it became probably a bit lengthier. It worked out that the music really sits in there in a nice way that's not overbearing, but present."

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