Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, nominated for original score for "The Social Network" with collaborator Atticus Ross, might be the best example of the ethos of serendipity and surprise.
"It's been a dream, and that's weird because usually I don't have dreams where my pants are on."
Reznor and Ross, who won a Golden Globe for original score, will work with Fincher again on "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," which is currently filming.
The duo is nominated alongside more seasoned film composers Alexandre Desplat ("The King's Speech"), John Powell ("How to Train Your Dragon"), A.R. Rahman ("127 Hours") and Hans Zimmer ("Inception").
In the complicated dream heist film, Zimmer said he saw his assignment as one of propelling the audience forward to signal to the mood of the moment.
"It's a very unusual film, and some viewers will be a little confused by it," Zimmer said. "The music should set you up to feel what's coming as opposed to telling you what to feel. It's like you're in a little boat, and you're on the river, and you trust the river to take you somewhere."
Rahman is a double nominee, also earning a nod for original song for "If I Rise," a collaboration with Dido and Rollo Armstrong. The nomination is Rahman's fifth, after he became the first Indian to win two Oscars in 2009 for original song and original score for his work on "Slumdog Millionaire."
Bringing some twang to the nominations — and perhaps the ceremony — is "Coming Home," a country anthem performed by Gwyneth Paltrow in "Country Strong" and written by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey.
Also nominated in the song category are Oscar veterans Randy Newman for "We Belong Together" from "Toy Story 3" and Alan Menken and Glenn Slater for "I See the Light," performed by Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi in "Tangled."
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the music nominations was who was left out. Despite winning best original song at the Golden Globes, "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me Yet," the "Burlesque" song written by Diane Warren (who has six career nominations) and performed by Cher, was left off the list.