It doesn't take a deep exploration of the soundtrack for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" before the music takes a turn toward the unsettling. Just a few taps on a piano becomes a reason for exploration, as each strike takes on a different tone until it's unclear what, if any, actual instrument is being played. Perhaps it's a piano, or maybe it's the sound of ice hitting concrete.
"We had a chance on this film to explore something we’ve done in Nine Inch Nails," Trent Reznor, NIN frontman and film score composer, said in early November. "We could explore the idea of noise and found sound as music."
Reznor and frequent collaborator Atticus Ross, who earlier this year won an Oscar for their work on "The Social Network," have again teamed with David Fincher for their follow-up into the world of cinematic scoring. Unlike "The Social Network," however, in which Reznor and Ross were late additions to the project, the two were able to dedicate a full 14 months to the score for "Dragon Tattoo," with Reznor even visiting Fincher on set in Sweden when shooting began.
"We didn’t have pictures, and we were given no script until the beginning of this year," Reznor said. "Yet you pretty much know what the story is going to be. I was talking to David on set in Sweden and he was explaining how cold it is and the vibe and read he’s getting there. He dictates things he hears, like there were a lot of bells and motifs he wanted to have access to. But a lot of that early phase is just working from an impressionistic, gut viewpoint."
It ultimately led to a score, six tracks of which were released for free online today, that feels more alive than the claustrophobic electronics of "The Social Network," with works worming their way through the dank and demented world of "Dragon Tattoo" and picking up and discarding pieces of the scenery at will. They were tools, Reznor said, sharpened while he working with David Lynch on his 1997 thriller "Lost Highway."