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Story in song

Eric Secviar | Thursday, December 9, 2010

I’ve always been a closet fan of Nine Inch Nails. The big thing that kept me from saying outright that I liked NIN was the darkness of Trent Reznor’s music. His lyrics in some songs were really angry, and I never could say I was mad enough to consistently relate to his tone. There’s a beauty to his music, though; at times, a simple melody will play through the crunchy, industrial guitars, distorted synths and sharp, sampled drums. Take “Closer” for example — the instrumentals have a creepy vibe, and the lyrics can be in some cases just disturbing. Right before the end, a short piano riff sneaks in as all other sounds fall by the wayside, and those repeated notes seem to purify the song, like if you turned on the lights after a bad nightmare. “Right Where It Belongs” is another great example of NIN’s ability to be more than just dark industrial rock. Reznor has absolutely amazing talent for capturing emotion in a song, whether it’s resentful anger, deep depression or driving motivation.

His skill carries over into the soundtrack for “The Social Network.” I’ll be completely frank with you at the outset: I’ve yet to see the movie and how the soundtrack plays into the characters, the dialogue and the mise-en-scène. That said, I feel like I’ve already seen this movie. Reznor and his long-time collaborator Atticus Ross have encapsulated what I can only imagine as the tension of the film perfectly. I hear Mark Zuckerberg giving an introductory monologue over the slow, thematic piano notes in “Hand Covers Bruise,” while ambient synths and bass insert a foreboding sense of conflict that will become the central piece of the movie. “In Motion” and “Intriguing Possibilities” isolate a feeling of fresh ideas, new connections being made as the characters delve deeper into the plot and become more engrossed in their relationships with one another. The darker, more distorted samples and the mysterious, eerie piano line that slips in at “3:14 Every Night” create an image of disturbance, the mood that something is about to go horribly wrong. Reznor covers “In the Hall of the Mountain King” breaking that tension into horrifyingly electric action, a theme to which I can see someone’s world come crashing down around him. The seething frustration of “On We March” reminds me of The Dust Brothers’ work on the Fight Club soundtrack (try “Medulla Oblongata”), but for the piano and industrial-rock guitar which grounds it and is something that is strikingly Reznor.

The level of musical artistry demonstrated by the instrumentation of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ production and programming are incredible. Their work here serves especially to highlight the progress of modern instrumental music and Reznor’s growth and depth as a composer of something beyond the label of industrial. It’s music like this that not only takes hold of the emotion of the scene, but also enhances it to captivate and move the audience, whether you’re listening to the soundtrack alone like me, or combining it with what has all indications of being a remarkable film.


Eric Secviar is a sophomore. He can be reached at esecviar@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.