Catalyst Album Review

Catalyst by Joshua Bynum


Dr. Joshua Bynum – Trombone
Anatoly Sheludyakov – Piano
Recorded at Ramsey Recital Hall in Athens, GA.

Purchase Album Here

Joshua’s Setup

Model: Edwards T350-E
Bell: 384CF
Handslide: T-STDN
Tuning Slide: Rose Brass Single Radius
Leadpipe: T2-AR
Mouthpiece: Greg Black Custom 4G

Knowing where to find the next “new” piece can be difficult at times for me. Having this abundance of material at my disposal is overwhelming, and I eventually find myself back at square one: looking for new material. With my position at Edwards, I have the incredible opportunity to listen and work with many fantastic artists who come through our doors. Because of this, my ears and understanding of sound have grown tremendously over the past year. The number one aspect that our artists bring into their music is the one that even my playing has been in need of. That one characteristic is emotion.

I decided to take a deeper dive into what our artists have created to allow myself to feel their voices. Passive listening is the most common way for me to engage with new music. Placing my headphones on to do housework or playing something over my car speakers to make my commute enjoyable is very typical. However, taking the time to set aside any distractions to exclusively focus on a deeper level of listening, I truly experienced a new way to consume music for myself. This led me to Dr. Joshua Bynum’s album Catalyst, recorded in 2013. As the name suggests, this album branches out into works that have flown under the radar within the trombone repertoire. Joshua performs on an Edwards T350-E tenor trombone. If you want to know more about Joshua, please go here.

Written in 2001 for the Slokar solo competition, Anthony Plog (b. 1947) composed Four Themes on Paintings of Goya to be a companion piece to Four Themes on Paintings of Munch which was written for trumpet and organ.

Listening to Four Themes on Paintings of Goya, I couldn’t help but imagine myself standing within the original artwork of the four Francisco Goya works that inspired Plog. I first heard these movements “blindly” and did not look at the paintings beforehand. While this was fairly enjoyable, it was not the best way to enjoy and fully understand the atmosphere that was built in each theme.

Goya, Francisco. El Conjuro. C. 1797

After viewing the paintings, I was able to live in each brushstroke and feel many different emotions that Joshua and pianist Anatoly Sheludyakov conveyed. The opening movement, El Conjuro, placed me moments before what is seen on the painting. The planted accompaniment of the piano gave me a foundation to barely catch my footing as the mixed meter and chromatic lines flew overhead carrying dread and ghastly images of witches seeking to cause harm and mischief. Just as it seems that the witches have had enough of their chaos, the original melody returns with an abrupt ending; the frightening ending that can be seen on the canvas.

Plog’s finale clues us into Saint José de Calasanz’s final communion. The somber mood of this movement is sectioned out with moments of hearing the priest deliver his sermon, and another, muted voice that serves as comfort. Joshua carefully crafts these moments with rubato and vibrato that display the internal challenge of knowing one’s time is nearing the end, yet at the same time, there is solace to be found through the light.

The unaccompanied playing by Joshua on Gabriel Stockhausen’s Poe Songs really stood out to me as they created individual worlds that exist both within themselves and together as one collection. Stockhausen (b. 1972) originally sought out creating a song cycle but found trouble finding texts to incorporate. With texts from Edgar Allen Poe, Stockhausen moved away from creating a song cycle and instead opted to write five movements without any edits.

Written in 1998, these movements include extended techniques that Joshua effortlessly navigates. The multiphonics found in House of Usher are clearly executed. In combination with the muted horn, the timbral shift casts a looming shadow of uncertainty as the movement progresses. Just as Poe describes the hysteria and unstable mental state of Roderick Usher after losing his twin sister, Joshua’s interpretation brought me into the walls of this dark and depressing home. Hearing echoes throughout the corridors while anxiously awaiting what may be happening around the corner served as a fantastic companion for the poem.

After taking the time to digest and look into the history and events that led to these works, I found an even stronger connection to the music than I had originally expected. Passive listening can provide the listener with a general idea of what is occurring in each piece. However, sitting back and placing all of my focus and attention on the music has permanently changed how I will listen to music in the future as it allows for deeper emotions and understanding of the music.

I encourage everyone to try this approach if you have not yet done so. Look at the artwork, read the literature, and brush up on any history surrounding these compositions. Even after listening to Catalyst ten times, I still hear and feel new emotions and colors in places where my focus may have drifted away previously.

My biggest takeaway from reviewing this album is to remind you to slow down and experience the music. You cannot fully understand and appreciate the music while simultaneously scrolling through Twitter. Get rid of distractions and let these incredible musicians share their voices and stories with you and stay curious about other repertoire that is out there. Now that I have an assortment of incredible artists surrounding me, I no longer need to painfully search for new music to absorb.