Montréal percussionist David Therrien Brongo dexterously creates dynamic musical worlds on CONFLUENCE, a highly melodic album of solo percussion compositions by French Canadian contemporary composers. Both meditative and stimulating, the album makes for an impressive demonstration of the possibilities of this rare genre.
Today, David is our featured artist in the “Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to learn about his love for metal and its various subgenres, and his dream to give a pyrotechnic-infused percussion performance…
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?
When I was in high school, my dream was to become a physicist. I was really interested in mathematics, numbers, scientific theories, and research. I was most fascinated by quantum physics and by astrophysics. The infinitely small and the infinitely large — I am a person of extremes! So at the end of my high school studies, I started to specialize in physics. I knew the path ahead was going to be long and that I would have to study for a long time, and probably even get a doctorate. I wanted to push the boundaries of research and knowledge and discover new things. I ended up doing a doctorate anyway, but in music! I also did a major in political sciences and philosophy while doing my masters in music.
Take us on a walk through your musical library. What record gets the most plays? Are there any “deep cuts” that you particularly enjoy?
Ensiferum, Kalandra, Wardunna, Rammstein, Slipknot, Rhapsody of Fire, Paddy and the rats, Le Vent du Nord… A lot of metal — Viking metal, power metal, industrial metal, Nordic folk, Celtic-Irish punk, Québec traditional music, etc. It’s not the typical music list you would expect from a classically trained musician! But I first learned music playing guitar with 70s pop and rock music when I was in high school. Then, I switched to the drums, learning mostly by myself listening to the metal music that I was also discovering at the time. Amongst the more classical music that makes the list, Mahler, Brahms, and Shostakovitch are probably the ones that I listen to the most, especially Mahler’s second and third symphonies, Brahms’ first symphony, and Shostakovitch’s eleventh.
What emotions do you hope listeners will experience after hearing your work?
Despite the fact that I am mainly a metalhead at heart and that I like to listen and play rhythmical, energetic, and powerful music, I decided, for my debut album, to go in another direction. Three of the pieces — Giguère, Béluse, and Vivier — ironically require only resonant metal instruments, but their mood is really calm, melodic, zen-like, and meditative. Far from metal music and the classic Xenakis solos for multi-percussion — that I played and enjoy a lot — the pieces on CONFLUENCE really focus on the color of sounds, resonances, melodies, and harmonies. We do have some more rhythmic passages in the Vivier or in the Coulombe Saint-Marcoux, but those are more like short interludes punctuating larger musical phrases.
What are your other passions besides music?
Aside from the classical and contemporary music that I mainly play, I used to play the drums in an extreme thrash metal band named Archetype. We have a nice videoclip on Youtube. I also played in a Québec’s traditional music band for some years when I was an undergraduate. But if we talk about non-musical passions, I would say that the main one is LARP — Live Action Role-Play — where, in events from one day to one week, you get to personify a fictional character and interact with others. I have a group of 10 friends and we reenact 14th century peasants on a field where there are around 3000 people. It’s more or less the equivalent of historically informed performance, but for non-musicians. We are living in historical tents, with cloth and armor from that time.
What’s the greatest performance you’ve ever seen, and what made it special?
I like it when things are a bit “too much.” I say “too much” because that’s how people see it generally but for me, it’s all those things that make a good show a great show. Of course I like to go see a great symphony played by a great orchestra in a classical context — Mahler’s second symphony by the Montreal Symphonic Orchestra — but I am an adept of Wagner’s ideal of a work of art, the Gesamtkunstwerk. I like when the music is really a part of the show, of the story,and when there are things around the music as well. For that, I like to go to the opera. Amongst the greatest performances I have seen is Wagner’s opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg by the Oper Frankfurt and Puccini’s opera Il Trittico by the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona. But I think the greatest performance I have ever seen ought to be Rammstein, when they played in Montreal in 2022. Their music, their stage presence, the lights, and especially the fire (flamethrower on stage, fireworks, etc.)… I thought to myself: “This is not only a concert, it’s a show, and it’s a complete work of art.” And since, I dream of the day that I will play a percussion recital or a concerto with some pyrotechnics!