(Photo by 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.
Watch videos of songs from NO FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS:
* Reviews of Howard Fishman's music from "No Further Instructions:"
* Praise for the memoir "Joshua and Isadora" by Michael Benanav:
“Movingly written, Michael Benanav’s search for his grandparent’s tragic memories and experiences bring the reader closer to an ineffable truth that must not be forgotten.” -Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
“A harrowing wartime saga [and] an intriguing record of Holocaust survival written with passion and authority.” – Publishers Weekly
“A tale of suffering, romance and redemption in Israel. Benanav’s work is grounded in remembering the ideological ferment of interwar Europe and in showing how victims of the Holocaust, as much as they shared a common fate designed by their enemy, were brought together by an independent, youthful iconoclasm that was all but smashed by Hitler. What stands out about this story is its ability to bring Southeastern Europe and Bessarabia, a southern Yiddish-speaking region in today’s Moldova, into focus. The narrative is highly imagistic, often relying on crisp depictions of Jews moving through the landscape to power a story of loss.” – The Jewish Daily Forward
"A moving portrait of a personal history during the Holocaust." – Booklist
"Important and gripping." - Hindustan Times (Mumbai)
* NO FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS is programmed with Michael Benanav’s active participation when scheduling and budgets permit. In conjunction with the performance, Benanav can also give stand-alone lectures based on his book, discussing the lesser-known history of the Holocaust in Romania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Ukraine through the personal story of his grandparents' experiences.
* A companion workshop or master class for students may be held in conjunction with the programming of NO FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS, in which Fishman and members of his ensemble work with students on a variety of possible topics, pegged to the needs of the local school curriculum. Recent workshops have focused on: Songwriting and Improvisation; Ensemble Performance; Music Business as a Career; and The Sacred and the Profane in American Roots Music.
* NO FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS is appropriate for a wide variety of academic studies, including: Eastern European History; Judaic Studies; Holocaust Studies; Nonfiction Writing; Music Composition; Music Performance; Folk Studies; and Religious Studies.