Orchestrator Calls Eugene Home

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EUGENE, Ore. — The first four minutes of the movie “Up” are like a movie within a movie; they capture the essence of love, despite the characters hardly uttering a word.

Viewers were mesmerized as an entire lifetime passed before their eyes in just a few short, fleeting moments. They watched as the characters Carl and Ellie get married and grow old together.

What we forget is the underlying reason we connect to the couple’s story: the music.

“It goes from very old, period-style 20s and 30s kind of music, but then it goes to a romantic moment when they’re looking in the clouds and seeing the clouds turn into little babies and things like that,” described Larry Kenton.

The Eugene resident can tell you all about the music in “Up,” “Ratatouille,” “Star Trek” or “Mission: Impossible III.” Hollywood, as it turns out, relies heavily on the work that is going on in Eugene, where Kenton lives and works as an orchestrator.

“In orchestration, what we do is take the musical sketches and ideas the composer has come up with for that and fill in all the coloration for the orchestra as well,” Kenton explained.

In his home office, Kenton works off the composer’s sketches. To a non-musical mind, they might look like gibberish. To an orchestrator, they’re the starting point.

“He writes instructions at the top of the page — or whatever it is — and we also get an audio file so we can kind of get an idea of where they want to go,” he said.

In time, the sketches undergo a transformation as Kenton fills in the notes and assigns instruments.

“I have to tell every single player every note they get to play or at least give them the instruction on what we’d like them to do,” said Kenton.

Even if his name isn’t the one that pops up two feet high in theaters like the composer’s does, Kenton’s happy knowing he had a part in some of the most magical moments in film history.

“It just comes back sounding better than you write it,” said Kenton, “which I love.”

That’s likely what happened when he saw the story of that little odd couple unfolding in front of him, a story that had its life breathed into it far from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood.


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