Thematic Thursday: The Social Network

Welcome back to Thematic Thursdays, where I share a good soundtrack for writing and/or working. Today we have a guest post by Marc Fowler, a good friend of mine and a fellow designer in Toronto. When he’s not building responsive web experiences he can be found either making too much guacamole or passing you on the left in the bike lane.


When Victoria invited me to guest post, I felt spoiled for choice. I listen to a wide variety of music while I’m working, but I always come back to my #1 working soundtrack: The Social Network.

The 2010 film, directed by David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin, tends to split people. If you like Sorkin’s writing, you might find it a moody exploration of the dirty deeds that people do to claw their way to the top–an interesting juxtaposition of making real life enemies while inviting people to be digital friends. If you don’t have a taste for it, it’s two hours of shitty rich dudes being smarmy two-faced assholes to each other. Your mileage may vary.

The music though! While Reznor and Ross have partnered on a number of projects, both soundtrack and otherwise, The Social Network seems to have a drum beat that many other of these collaborations don’t feature as strongly. Reznor and Ross build a forward momentum that drags me through the day with it. It is music that makes Jesse Eisenberg mumbling about Perl scripts and Apache config files seem interesting, so you know this stuff is industrial grade.

Specifically, I listen to the appropriately titled In Motion so much that Spotify may very well be concerned about me. A methodical synthetic drum beats on behind low-fi vaguely video game bleeps. It’s like someone whispering “You’ve leveled up! Excellent combo!” in your ear all day.

The soundtrack is full of little surprises. Would you expect Reznor to do a damn good digital remix of Edvard Grieg’s classical composition and Saturday morning cartoon staple “In the Hall of the Mountain King”? Because it’s track 12. You’ll hear a few familiar tracks from some of Reznor’s previous work, Ghosts I-IV. Classical piano scattered among the low-fi digital pings. Moody and foreboding notes that stretch into white noise to block out the rest of the office.

If you’re familiar with Reznor’s work from 2005’s With Teeth and onwards, none of this will be much of a surprise to you. While it still has the moody sad notes of his earlier stuff, this is leaner, more calculating album. It exists to serve in film the same purpose it will serve you in real life: Take boring, methodical computer work and put it in sharp, interesting focus. So open up your most mundane of tasks, throw on your largest headphones, crank it up, and put the hammer down: It’s time to get shit done.

Trent Reznor’s 2010 soundtrack to The Social Network, via YouTube or Spotify

A Line Rider video set to the classical version of Hall of the Mountain King. It has nothing to do with The Social Network, I just think the video is amazing.

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