The Score Auteur: Trent Reznor

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Who would have guessed that Trent Reznor, founder and frontman of the band Nine Inch Nails, would win an Academy Award for his first film score?

That score, a collaboration with Atticus Ross for David Fincher’s The Social Network, served as a springboard into further work with Ross on two more Fincher films — The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl — as well as Peter Berg’s Patriots Day. Collaborating with Ross was not Reznor’s first foray into the film world, though. In fact, director David Lynch actually commissioned him to write an original song for Lost Highway. With that piece, and especially since working with Ross, Reznor has carried his years of industrial rock into his scores.

The Reznor/Ross compositions are typically cold, mechanical, and uninviting. You won’t hear anything reminiscent of a traditional score; there’s no orchestra, and nothing grand or sweeping. There’s rarely even a melody. The music clicks, pulses, and drones, scraping deep into the mind. There’s an irony to these dark and beautiful soundscapes. Though many of the tracks are quiet and subtle, and we often don’t even realize the music’s presence, its impact is undeniable. There’s a signature style at work, and with Reznor and Ross next set to tackle Trey Edward Shults’ Waves, one can only hope that the best is yet to come.

For more on the magic of movie music, check out our editorials on composer Jonny Greenwood and Clint Mansell’s “Requiem for a Dream” score, or our all-women composer playlist, a list of the top movies with soundtracks to live by, and the best film scores snubbed by the Oscars.

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