photo: Michael Benanav
NO FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS is a multimedia song cycle centered around Howard Fishman's true-life adventures in rural Romania with his childhood friend (and New York Times travel journalist/photographer) Michael Benanav. The project combines original music, historical memoir, storytelling and photography to essay their exploits together in far-flung Eastern Europe.
For Fishman, the journey was an occasion for intense personal reflection and mediation on his role as an artist, an American, a Jew, and a human being. The songs he would come to write for the album No Further Instructions detail an inward spiritual quest in which basic assumptions he has held about his place in the world are called into question. Using his typically iconoclastic musical vocabulary, Fishman’s music uses melodic pop, bluegrass, classical, experimental rock and gospel while weaving in Balkan brass and European waltzes, to create a vibrant palate for this collection of songs.
The trip’s purpose had a spiritual dimension for both friends. Benanav was researching the geography of his origins, visiting the places where his paternal grandparents were born and, most importantly, where they lived and suffered during World War II. Ultimately escaping the clutches of the Nazis in a series of incredible events, they met by chance on the deck of a refugee boat sailing from Romania in December, 1944; with no common language, they were married three days later on a train to Palestine, where they became active in the armed Jewish resistance against British occupation. Benanav tells their story in the memoir Joshua and Isadora: A True Tale of Loss and Love in the Holocaust. Weaving in episodes from his trip with Fishman as a backdrop for the historical tale, Benanav’s book is a commentary on Jewish identity and how his grandparent’s world has changed over the last half-century (and how it’s remained the same).
In performance NO FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS combines Fishman's songs with Benanav’s luminous photographs to illustrate and comment on the stories via overhead projections, while Fishman’s ensemble uses the songs as launching pads for their own musical explorations, by turns unexpected and explosive and also profoundly intimate. Michael Benanav joins the project when his schedule permits, adding readings from his book and personal narrative to the show’s arc.
At its core, NO FUTHER INSTRUCTIONS is about community and spirituality in the 21st century -- about what it means to live a mindful life, and what connects us all as humans and citizens of the world.