stage set copy 2.jpg

To recap. Last November I rented a black box theater (part of the Central Square Theater) A black box with chairs, a black curtain and lights. I read from THE PARAGRAPHS and played a song. Like that. For over an hour. 4 of my photographer friends (Bob Lewis, Werner Grundl, Anthony Sahadeo and Evan Scales) shot that night. TJ Wenzl and Chris Pirro recorded the audio. 

I have at long last edited SONGS WITH SUBTITLES: THE MOVIE. It has taken awhile even to get started: The format variables - aligning audio to visual, managing a new iMac and sorting out the longest upload to Vimeo without having it stall - all stubborn hills to climb in the degree of difficulty. These are what I’ve got. I haven’t posted them up anywhere (save I WILL NEVER KNOW, EVER/UNKNOWN SOLDIER t fbk), nor have I uploaded to YT. 

Unlike the much easier music video edits (shorter and jammed with images) I’ve come to realize that it’s not an edit that requires a lotta jump cuts and imagery quilting. It’s all about the words themselves - even if  long and potentially tiresome. 

This is what I came up with. I tire of staring at my face for hours on end, but my hope is that the ‘idea’, the spoken word/song combo, comes through. I also look forward to possible stages/events where this sort of performance might be cool to book.

My plan, going forward, is to eventually link the entire event into one longform piece, but I suspect that could be mind-numbing. 



Comments/reactions from the audience that night (also from AFTERGLOW):

Thank you Rick Berlin for your glorious show at the Afterglow Festival last night (Sept 11, 2019). I feel bad for anyone who missed it. It was absolutely sublime. Your writing is transcendent and the music was just so expert and inspiring. It felt so full circle for me to have you to Ptown as you were a rock god to me going back to BU and Kenmore Square days. Like fine (organic red) wine you have only become all the finer!

- Quinn Cox (Producer of Afterglow Festival)

Tonight (Sept 11, 2019) in Provincetown, Rick put it right in your face. Reading from his book and playing his songs he challenged you to confront your own self and all of its frailties. I have followed Rick since the Orchestra Luna days and I must say, he took it to another level tonight. Thank you Rick, by baring your own soul, you have helped me to be at ease with my own! Loved that lamp on the stage, gave it that “Rick Berlin from his living room” feel. I was surprised how many of the attendees last night were new to your work. The overwhelming positive reaction confirmed how great this show is. I hope everyone gets to see it at some point.

- Roger MacDonald

Hey Rick – Hope you had as much fun as we did. Your performance tonight was extraordinary - emotionally powerful, funny, poignant, sad, bold, just superb. Thanks for pouring yourself into all of it. When are we going on the road together? Maybe local. You can be funny and deep and make people cry and I can do whatever the fuck I do.

- Mindy Fried (author, Porchfest, JP)

What a joy to have met you this week, and to have seen your show. I absolutely loved everything about what you did up there. You inspired me to be more open, more courageous, in my life and in my work. You are a gifted person.

- Stella Starsky (author)

The Paragraphs is the ‘Just Kids’ (Patti Smith) of Jamaica Plain.

- Phil Wilcox (singer, musician, Tres Gatos music store guy)

Thanks, Rick, for an amazing evening. Raw, funny, vulnerable, touching…could go on and on, but really just thanks and love!

- Marie Gitman (musician, Porchfest, JP)

Sounded great last night! Really liked the read/song format. Wish I could've stayed longer, bad timing for me. Snuck in 6:30, sat in back on the floor, left around 7 after pukin bj, yikes!

- Milo Jones (songwriter)

Thank you for inviting me! It was a fantastic performance. A complete journey through a meaningful life expressed through a beautiful body of work. I could feel filmy eyes welling up at points, and uncontrollable laughter at others. From deep reflection to joy, and I know I’m not the only one in the room who had these kinds of feelings about it. Really really great work and very glad that it was filmed and recorded! Thank you again! At the end of it, I wouldn’t have minded if you went through the whole thing again so that I could focus on certain parts that had the heaviest impact. So glad I own the book and looking forward to the film.

- Brian McCaffrey (musician, realtor, gadfly)

I'm so sorry. We were about to ruin your show. :( I wanted to stay, But B was building up to a full out kid shit fit, it was about to get messy and I was sooooo acutely aware of being that "person who brings their disruptive kid", ya know? From what I saw it was wonderful!! I loved how the songs and stories meshed!  Gonna be in JP majana and finally buying that damn BOOK! Love you lots, thank you for inviting me. You're a talented, beautiful man.

Re: MY DAD SAVES ME. First off: how much would I LOVE to see a video of lil Rick Berlin playing his first concert on that stage! What an image. Second, your dad was sort of a fox. What a vivid, "big" moment captured with such clarity, and then coupled with the song was a perfect sentiment pairing.

Re: MY GIRLFRIENDS. Your description of the sort friendship you describe is SPOT ON! It made me smile, thinking of friendships like that I have/had. 

You say things I can’t even say to myself when I’m alone in my car!

- Patricia Sheehan (mom, beer distro lady)

You were fantastic. Heard a lot of stuff I haven’t heard in years - I still miss those Jacques shows. Can’t wait t see the video. Oh and Jacob and Craig really dug it too.

- Chris Barrett (musician)

That was great. Glad I came. Almost teared up a couple of times.

- Paul O’Leary (artist, fireman, marine)

You have new fans here at my new workplace.

- Katie Eelman (publisher)

Yeah. We had a great time. You were awesome.

- Tommy Dean (musician, writer, artist)

"Had a great time last night seeing Rick Berlin filming Songs w/ Subtitles: The Movie in Central Square. It was very moving (I almost cried at a couple song.)

- Bridget Eden (writer, mom)

Three buddies came over to our place afterwards; they had only great things to say about it, Rick. So far by all accounts it was phenomenal. Because of course it was!

- Michelle DiPaola (writer)

Comments/reactions about the edited clips:

Rick, I think this is beautiful. I love the style of the filming and edits. I think doing the single song and reading pairing is great for now. Eventually you can stitch them together for a long feature. The intro is great too--i wonder if you can put that together with the first pairing video and publish it. Then publish the others subsequently over a long chunk of time. 

Keep me posted. So happy you did this. A marvelous night and the magic isn't lost in this format. The trascendsnt nature of your songs w subtitles performance really shines through. 

- Katie Eelman (publisher)

hi Rick, it looks like you’ve put in a lot of work - it’s a strong concept, and your music and delivery is powerful.

- Bob Lewis (film maker)

Whoa Rick, Thank you for sharing your stunning art with me. It’s at once sardonic and riotous; gapingly beautiful and full of honestly felt realness. It’s like your opening up my skull, placing bits of your art into my brain, mixing it throughly, and then pouring the contents into my heart. I’ll be watching these over & over again.

Love & Tentacles,

- Edrie Edrie (mom, artist in all things, heart center of Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys)

Rick Berlin's one-man performance Songs with Subtitles takes vignettes from his story-thus-far and pairs them with his illuminating musical sketches. Irreverent yet solemn, alternately shallow and profound, sometimes shocking but more often deeply soulful. To paraphrase one of his songs, he'll burn a candle in your heart.

- Beth Harrington (musician, filmmaker - The Winding Stream, Women of Rockabilly: Welcome to the Club, The Blinking Madonna and Other Miracles)

Hi Rick, generally a pretty fine job of editing. You kept it visually interesting. Clearly this is for your fans, of which I am one.  But you have to accept the fact that there will be little interest in your oeuvre where young boys are involved.  Shades of Kevin Spacey.  The film “Call By Your Name” notwithstanding.  Nobody will go near this save a small cult that accept the beauty of your attraction.  Yes, it is love but this love violates too many societal taboos, especially in this current climate.

The song “Do Your Still Love Me” is terrific.  I can hear some artist having a hit with it.  You could use a songwriter manager.   

 You are a wonderful writer.  And I do like the concept of one reading, one song.  It works.  My friend Tara MacLean did something similar this past summer.  We traveled to see her in Prince Edward Island.  She called it Atlantic Blue.  She featured 10 songwriters from the Canadian Atlantic East Coast.  Hard living up there.  (She one of the 10.)  She would talk about the artist, then play a video she produced about said artist and then she and her band would play a song from the songwriter.  An informative, interesting and fun evening and it broke the convention of simply playing songs in concert with or without a bit of commentary.  You are doing something similar.

Sending warmth and love from Bangkok

- Oedipus (WBCN PD, Wikipedia)

Thanks for sending this along, Rick! Beautiful. I showed my mom ridiculous hair and she likes your style! (My dad was just sighing loudly in the other room as he couldn't be convinced. I will continue to try! Don't worry!).  

In re: to Oedi's comments: I disagree, bigly. I think your voice is valid and honest and I think we all remember what it's like to have that intense attraction at 14 and it's important to admit these feelings and sharing your story becomes the light so we can not all feel so alone with our pain. 

My almost three year old niece called me yesterday and sang 'this little light of mine' and it nearly broke my heart. I love how many candles and this story is so heartbreaking and makes pain real and you're something truly special, my friend.

I like yr self-tag 'sidebar to the mainstream' and think that's a mighty fine place to hang out. See you tomorrow?!

- Kate Layte (publisher, Papercuts, JP bookstore)

Hi, Rick

I watched it, again, in full. Very cool. Thought i was going to like Vampire most, then loved Fishnets. But you slayed me with Little Sam. When Sam took the stage to sing the last verse I was a puddle of tears. That song meant so much to Chet (Cahill) and me. Chet would have loved this work. Now that i see the scope of it, I think the title you have is clever and appropriate. It’s serious work. You should be very proud.

I also like the way it is set up on the page with the grid of black squares. It looks great on my phone. That format tells the viewer that this is a body of work broken down into chunks like an album. Makes it easier to watch/navigate. Gives the viewer options to sample. Intrigues/entices with your titles.  


- Billie Best (manager: Orchestra Luna II, Luna & Berlin Airlift, writer, activist, changling, blogger)

That video was so beautiful my heart hurts. It's the full circle thing of hearing all 3 of you sing it after the wonderful letters. And knowing that Sammy grew up listening to the record and sounded so much like his mom.

- Ellen Wineberg (artist)

I had to think about it a little bit, but the format is fascinating and the presentation here has a clarity and presence that commands the viewer’s attention.  The lighting, the starkness of the floor supporting piano and man in binary black and white angles, and all the immediacy of the artist pleading a case for Experience and the wake of sensation that follows it.

I’ve become fascinated with the infinite details of lifetimes, things unseen and those things seen or felt but instantly forgotten, and yet none of it insignificant.  

There is something massively vivid about this work, and of this performance, and the book as a conduit from a point of perception.  The songs a similar but different conduit.

I envision these as part of a documentary exploration that describes an artist’s window into existence, life as an artist and the work that follows of building a conduit to an audience that may be asleep or may be wide-awake, in the work of building multiple conduits for the simple reason that experience is vivid and no minute detail is insignificant.

So, for whatever my two cents is worth, I see these pieces, that each live independently as a separate video file, as also being something that starts to fit into a fairly remarkable whole.  

An anonymous voice off camera asks: “Why have you kept at this, Rick? You never became rich or famous yet decade after decade you continue to write and and record and perform from a place of relative obscurity. What is your point?“

You weren’t expecting a novel this morning. Talk to you soon.

- Brian McCaffrey (musician, realtor, gadfly)

Enjoying the SWS videos right now. Love the format, the double exposures, and breaking it down one track at a time. Reading/song combos are perfectly paired, naturally. Love the intimacy in general and specifically when your face is superimposed next to an audience member. All captures the humanity of your words (which do speak for themselves but the visual presence adds to the intimacy, the presence, another dimension or two).

- Rene Rives (photographer, artist, social worker)

Was telling Hana just this weekend how I remember like it was yesterday the day you left for college - car circled the little island in the driveway and Ma stalwart until you were out of sight lost it in a quiet but not to be comforted by me way. Shoulders shaking, tears streaming down - the end of a chapter she knew. An inevitability,one of life’s many tough reckonings.

I experienced the same thing driving back from CO after dropping Hana off. Just me and Nar in the car. Shoulder shakes went on for a long time. A wave - 

In this last instance Luc heading to a friend for a sleepover brought it all back

- Jane Clark (my sister)

FINALLY finished all the videos. Love how you did em. Stories and songs (which were really compelling, BTW) paired perfectly. Sweet, unique, product. I’d say leave as is. I like being able to watch it almost like a TV show. One big piece might feel like a movie that you need to find a bunch of time to watch. 

- Evan Scales (photographer, film maker, web designer)

I know why I love these so much. My favorite stage experience always was to stand beside you watching sideways your eyes looking into the eyes of people watching you. Now, maybe, you can see this too. Your performance is never about just you. It is your art of creating, communicating, including everyone in the room. Hopefully you can see this hear it feel it yourself in these clips.

- Lisa Dudley (my sister)

Hey Rick

I watched all the songs w subtitles videos last night. I think you were looking for feedback on keeping them as single snippets or one long piece so I had that in mind watching. I have a feeling this email is going to be a longer piece. 

After writing a few long paragraphs I went to the website to reference something and read the comments for the first time. I quickly realized a lot of people have already shared similar reactions...and you've already had heaps of smoke blown!

Man, Oedipus' comment is stark and I admit, something I also thought about. But had also forgotten about when I sat down to write this. I watched the videos with Drew (his daughter) and after some line I blurted out this relationship wouldn't fly in 2018. I don't think that is a revelation for you though. I think it is pretty bold to keep his comment on the website. 

My first impression, which carried through all the videos, is that the overall look is compelling. The quality of the images just looks great, and I think your editing and the guys filming make nice little flourishes without it becoming like an experimental video. Some of these are: the extreme close ups when you're reading the laundry list of experiences of Michael - a great reading by the way, it could've almost been played for laughs, and you're reading with this unimpressed, matter of fact way - the freeze frame at the end of Do You Still Love Me?, the quick family photos throughout (I like that they’re there but they’re quick and you're back to the digital b&w world), the audience reaction after the anti war reading n before Unknown Soldier, the audience washes at the very end showing people getting up and the empty seats, a zoom in-and-stay on your hands on the keyboard on a song I didn't write down, and, in general, lots of nice wide shots, zooms, etc. What do I know about editing, but I think it looks pro.

One performance i keep thinking about is Are You A Psycho? That could be a quintessential performance, maybe just because I hadn't seen you perform this way in a while, but it kind of articulates what I’ve felt many times before: how you weave in and out of the performance, where sometimes your gestures/tone are like commentary on the song, or the idea of writing a song and then you can just be dead center in the heart of the song on the next line. Its funny, devastating, good vocal, and that rising electric piano curly cue you do before you go into a verse gets stuck in my head. 

I think it works as a longer piece, but maybe too long as is. The just aesthetic pleasantness of the images lets a longer piece work I think. How long is too long? I think the choice is to stay on one theme, and make it shorter, or include the smorgasbord, which has its merits too. If it was me I’d stay on the theme that runs through maybe half of them, which is basically love (the search for and the familial), but that would mean leaving out the one about your hair, air travel, war, etc. 

Shit, you could embrace Oedipus' comment and string the related songs/stories together as a sort of I don't know what… 

- Jeff Chasse (songwriter)

Comments/reactions about the BOOK ITSELF:

‘Pausing now before finishing the paragraphs. Wonderful work. Bloody shave, guns, Kia, all wonderful and every word you wrote pertaining to animals rocked. You seem like a wonderful and interesting person and Boston and the world at large are improved by your presence. Be well and keep going.’

- James Amorello