Rob realised that Glass' music, and that of various of his contemporaries from the minimalist and post-minimalist field, bore certain resemblances to Manchester bands of a completely different genre - to Joy Division, New Order and James. Where, for instance, Glass had pioneered a style of classical music involving a repetitious vortex of absorbing and resorbing rhythms; so Curtis, Hook, Morris and Albrecht had forged relentless, wild-eyed seizures of songs such as She's Lost Control. Taken with the idea, he set about composing classical interpretations of music by these and other bands from Manchester - some, like Happy Mondays, from the city's iconic Factory label. Others, like Doves, Oasis, The Smiths, The Stone Roses and Simply Red, were either contemporaneous with these acts, or had developed under their influence.
If it seemed like a good idea, it rapidly started to seem like the right time as well. 2001, and 2002, both witnessed the unfurling of the growing cultural vitality simmering in Manchester since the mid-'90's. As the city's international profile began to expand in anticipation of the 2002 Commonwealth Games, so musically, it began to produce bands once more with an obvious debt to their forerunners of the past three decades. Simultaneously, the release of the film 24 Hour Party People, celebrating the glory days of the Factory label and its symbolic home in the Hacienda, was released to wide acclaim.
These events instilled Litmus with credence and purpose. With hindsight, it's obvious that such development involved fusion in a range of forms. The idea itself, of course, centered on the often ignored proximity between classical and pop music of the period. But then there was another coming together and intersection - namely that of Litmus itself.
It's said that everyone is the sum of one's influences, and the people they have met. In Rob's case, those people just happened to be some of the finest quartet musicians in the world. An enthusiast and student of chamber music from his youth, he won his first composition award at 15, and played from 15-17 as first violin with the Fenice Quartet. As a student, he went on to develop under the guidence of the leading quartets internationally - including the Endellion, Lindsay, Amadeus, Sorrel, Schubert, Borodin and Chilinghirian quartets.
Crucially, however, he also studied both at The Royal Northern College Of Music in the United Kingdom, and at Indiana University in the United States, where he worked with the likes of Claude Baker, Don Freund and Andre Kasparov. It was natural not only that Rob should absorb the influence of these teachers, but that he should perceive a transatlantic quality in composition - replicating exactly the way in which the music of groups like New Order had developed in the first place. In Indiana, he had engrossed himself in contemporary music of various forms. His knowledge of the Factory era considered, the link between them was only a step away.
The essence of Litmus, musically and in terms of the people whom it comprises, is the selfsame transection that Rob perceived when he compared Philip Glass' music to that of Manchester bands. The quartet have already played across Manchester, the International Finance and Enterprise Week gala dinner, and the London premiere of 24 Hour Party People itself. It brings together individuals who have, between them, worked with the HallÃ©, Royal Philharmonic, BBC Symphony Orchestra, and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra to name but a few. As a quartet, they draw immediate identity from Manchester and its music, but more broadly from as far as Russia and California. Already they're looking forward, considering how to experiment with electrical instruments in future live performances. Their first CD, a collection drawn from their Mancunian repertoire, stresses the liquidity of genre and how similar techniques could be applied to a breadth of music stretching well beyond Manchester itself. As an absorbant and absorbing stylistic crossbreeding, and a resetting of musical precedent, this need only be the beginning.
Check out the artist's website:
1. Love Will Tear Us Apart
3. Bizarre Love Triangle
4. Morning Glory
6. Holding Back the Years
7. Made of Stone
8. She's Lost Control
10. This Charming Man
11. Out to Get You