I define an original score to be music written by a composer or group of composers “to picture”–that is, they are watching the movie they are scoring as they write the music and they write the specific cues to the specific scenes. Is this a bit pedantic? Sure. Is it needlessly specific? Yes. Is it a distinction made by anyone but me? Probably not. A soundtrack is music written before picture, cued to picture by the director, editor, sound guy or Chaz. Where things get murky are original soundtracks: music written expressly to accompany this film, but cued to picture after it’s been composed. Recently, celebrities in the music world have started writing original soundtracks for movies. Daft Punk did TRON: Legacy, for instance.

Trent Reznor is the creative force behind Nine Inch Nails, perhaps one of the world’s greatest musical acts. Atticus Ross is his partner in crime, and together, they wrote the original soundtrack for The Social Network. When David Fincher asked Trent Reznor to do the music for “the Facebook movie”, he wanted the music to be distinctive–if you heard a Social Network cue, you would know what movie it was from. He wanted something electric, something living, something sinister–something that was not the John Hughes feel-good fest other people envisioned this script as. Trent Reznor went away for a few weeks with his sonic collaborateur Atticus Ross and came back with about 90% of the soundtrack we have today.

And what a soundtrack it is. Brilliantly dark, vibrantly moody and secluded from all the wrong forms of structure, The Social Network is a rare movie that has a soundtrack as smart and evasive as its screenplay. From the haunting opening cue, “Hand Covers Bruise”, to the new wave montage music of “In Motion”, the first ten minutes of this soundtrack–and thus the picture itself–are musical gold. Capturing by turns the alienation of college life and the electric, exhilarating feel of pure creation, Reznor/Ross’s work is unmatched. The highlights continue through sixty-six minutes of the most delicately textured and meticulously layered music I’ve heard in a film.

Highlights include cues such as “Painted Sun in Abstract”, “3:14 Every Night”, “Carbon Prevails”, “Eventually We Find Our Way”, “Pieces Form the Whole” and my personal favourite cue in the feature, “Magnetic”. Sadly, as you can tell by reading the titles to these various cues, almost none of this was written to be paired with a specific scene. The titles look mostly like artifacts from sending the tracks in for David Fincher’s approval, only to find that Fincher had nothing bad to say. I’ve called this soundtrack out before for being “good enough”–I’m curious to hear what these cues could have been with a more intimate, post-production role for Mssrs. Reznor and Ross.

The easy highlight of the album is their rendition of “In the Hall of the Mountain King”. It is everything Grieg would have been fascinated by–a technological, theme based exploration of texture and tonality through a common thread. And really, that’s what this entire soundtrack is–a unique examination of theme and texture by two guys who had never done this before. THREE AND A HALF STARS