The repertoire of “Breath & Hammer” is made up of Krakauer & Tagg’s arrangements of “simple songs” by composers as diverse as New York-based visionary John Zorn, Syrian clarinetist Kinan Azmeh, Cuban percussionist Roberto Rodriguez, as well as original compositions by Krakauer and Tagg with elements ranging from interlocking African drumming patterns to romantic symphonic textures to minimalism and klezmer. These diverse and seemingly disparate musical influences intermingle, transformed into something entirely new, a hybrid art form that bridges the cultures of the past and new work that looks towards the future.

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David Krakauer and Kathleen Tagg have been performing as a duo since 2012, in music ranging from classical composers such as Brahms, Debussy and Janacek, all the way to contemporary trailblazers. Their latest project, “Breath and Hammer,” is an innovative re-imagining of the traditional clarinet and piano recital that integrates folk and improvisation-based music with classical masterworks. Via their own lush and adventurous new arrangements, they are able to fully exploit Krakauer’s use of extended techniques, improvisation and circular breathing on the clarinet, and Tagg’s tremendous prowess inside the piano to use it as a harp, a zither, a drum and a cello. In addition to utilizing the full range of timbres that can be imagined from both instruments, they also work with a sound designer to even further expand the scope of sonic possibilities by incorporating electronic effects and layers. 

Widely considered one of the greatest clarinetists on the planet, Grammy-nominated artist David Krakauer has been praised internationally as a key innovator in modern klezmer as well as a major voice in classical music. South African-born pianist, composer and producer Kathleen Tagg has performed on four continents in leading venues such as Carnegie Hall, had her original music performed in venues such as New York’s Lincoln Center, appeared on a host of classical, world music and multi-genre recordings and produced numerous CDs and inter-disciplinary programs from South Africa to Los Angeles. Individually they have an impressive track record of creating innovative programs that stretch the boundaries of traditional concert presentations. In “Breath and Hammer” they bring together their disparate backgrounds to make something new and uniquely their own.

Krakauer joined with the adventurous South African pianist Kathleen Tagg in an exciting new duo project known as Breath and Hammer. At the peak of their conversation, Krakauer sailed through virtuosic passages before taking off on a passionate, soul-stirring improvisation... Throughout their compelling duo set, Tagg joined prepared piano to electronics in increasingly brilliant applications.
— Bill Milkowski, Downbeat Magazine

It is lovely to watch Tagg and Krakauer playing from the same invisible page where mood and phrasing are written. Their synergy of interpretation travels immediately to the audience... After the last note of the enchantment had faded, no-one wanted to come out of meditation.
— Andy Wilding, Fine Music Radio

The New York-based duo had us in awe from the very first second, and I am still in awe of the immense privilege it was to witness such a passionate and varied performance... Both Krakauer and Tagg elicited astonishing tones from their instruments by what can only be described as unorthodox methods.
— Marie Stinnes, What’s on in Cape Town