What is The New Yorker? I know it’s a great magazine and that it’s a tremendous source of pleasure in my life. But what exactly is it? This blog’s premise is that The New Yorker is a work of art, as worthy of comment and analysis as, say, Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” Each week I review one or more aspects of the magazine’s latest issue. I suppose it’s possible to describe and analyze an entire issue, but I prefer to keep my reviews brief, and so I usually focus on just one or two pieces, to explore in each the signature style of its author. A piece by Nick Paumgarten is not like a piece by Dana Goodyear, and neither is like a piece by Ian Frazier. One could not mistake Finnegan for Friend, or Bilger for Lepore, or Collins for Khatchadourian. Each has found a style, and it is that style that I respond to as I read, and want to understand and describe.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

December 17, 2012 Issue

One of the many brilliant elements of David Fincher’s masterly The Social Network (2010) is the soundtrack. Alec Wilkinson’s excellent “Music from the Machine,” a profile of Trent Reznor, in this week’s issue, illuminates the process that created the movie’s cerebrally beautiful score. Wilkinson says that when Fincher asked Reznor to write the music for The Social Network, he told him he wanted “the sound of creativity.” That request strikes me as dauntingly abstract. But I’m not possessed with Reznor’s genius. Working in partnership with Atticus Ross, Reznor eventually “sent Fincher about forty minutes of music.” Wilkinson quotes Fincher as saying, “Of that forty minutes, I think we ended up using pretty much all of it.” Wilkinson’s description of the opening track is fascinating:

“Hand Covers Bruise,” the theme of “The Social Network,” and the first scored music in the movie, begins with a nervous drone that is Reznor bowing a cello as fast as he can, but the sound has been manipulated, Nine Inch Nails style – in such a way, that is, that it sounds like something else, in this case a vibration from a loose piece of machinery. A halting and melancholy piano line, twelve notes, in nearly identical phrases, descends just over an octave, from an F-sharp to the tonic D. 

Fincher’s initial response to this music, as reported by Wilkinson, is memorable: “‘I opened it on my computer, and I turned my speakers up loud, and it gave me chills,’ Fincher said. ‘How could something this simple be this profound?’” That’s my reaction, too. Like so many other aspects of The Social Network, its soundtrack is inspired.  

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