William Aide

Pianist. Poet. Teacher.

POETRY by William Aide


They knew their power together

the sense of a beginning

      pursued them;

they fled ecstatically to love’s asylum.

The sea was glassy, scintillant

porpoises, flying fish broke surface

(they saw their splash).

The man and woman had no need

to scan horizons.

His manuscripts already netting

      gleaming images,

more  leapt like marlin

in the sea-whorls of his ear.

These voiles, these twenty-four preludes

        engulfed them.

They sped to what they meant to be

        their island.

Chopin: Prelude in B flat minor

by William Aide



Jesus died for singers’ notes

issuing from lustrous throats;

tiny iridescent jewel,

votaries of Jennie Lind

graduates of music school

hear you sing that none has sinned.

Chopin: Prelude in A major

by William Aide



You write what you know.

No, that is not right—

You write what your inner ear


this whirring cave of chiaroscuro, I


its blaze and tenebrae are


What does that magpie Franz Liszt reckon?

All he can hear is new sound,

so he labels my prelude “ravishing”.

Do I write agitato and stretto for nothing?

His marvelous hands should hurt.

My thumb lines are prints of my shrieking soul.

I take the intolerable

and make it bel canto.

As for Liszt and his women—

let the contessas scrap for his relics

cigar butts and broken strings—

let them turn them into chic

    kitsch brooches,

armaments for bosoms

beyond my reach.

Chopin: Prelude in F sharp minor

by William Aide



Emblems of his soul, writes Viardot,

graced with perfect suppleness.

    Whipped like eels

they stretch, extend

his proud, poetic mind.

Watteau-like hands

that sing spianato, span

his Pleyel universe

flick to easy life this swift ephemeron.

The D major over,

one manicured fingernail

draws a slow glissando.



Such yearnings for the heart’s assurance—

    it will not come.

Demanding cries for the answer to Job—

    it will not come.

On his island of red earth, the man

stares at the majestic sea,

    and turning away

lifts from his broken chest

his scripture of contingencies.

They fall on the quickening page

      into patterns.

He listens again to what he was sent for.

Chopin: Prelude in D minor

by William Aide



The pitching haemorrhaging sea!

My D minor—the last and best prelude—

I should die for such rhetoric

were it not for my music’s truth.

We boarded in darkness this cast-iron kettle

with George taking charge as she must

    Solange answering

the squealing pigs in the hold and

grabbing at my terrified hands.

Pigs beneath in despair—

we rolled through our own mal de mer

When the children fell mercifully asleep

I brought up blood and spotted

my new grey gloves and favorite cravat.

She shocked us both by braying

her high hyena laugh (I mimic it so well)

and called me a bloody dandy—

then lowered my drowned head

    onto her lap

    as would have done

the forgotten Polish mother

I wrote my early mazurkas to please.

In this state, in this floating abattoir,

we arrived at Marseilles.

Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21


Martha Henry, sprechstimme

William Aide, piano

Adele Armin, violin

Suzanne Shulmann, flute

James Campbell, clarinet

David Bourque, bass clarinet

Conrad Bloemandahl, cello

Elyakim Taussig, conductor



As if looking at pictures
and how the milk eyes
a guttural utterance
the raw clown face
by hands crabwise
presume a doomed men-
new triads of black blood
the lit Christ
careening in speech song
twenty-one moon-struck
exquisitely scored
slashed Goebbels-gobbets

Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21

by Martha Henry, sprechstimme - Members of Camerata - Elyakim Taussig, conductor, William Aide, piano

Ondine: prose poem by Aloysius Bertrand

Ravel: Ondine (Gaspard de la Nuit)


Marjolaine St. Pierre, reciter
William Aide, piano

Ondine: prose poem by Aloysius Bertrand - Ravel: Ondine (Gaspard de la Nuit)

by Marjolaine St. Pierre, reciter William Aide, piano

Intermezzo in A major, Opus 118


That this might vanish from his very eyes–

the ash is leaning and there is no wind

the perfumed phlox instruct incessant flies,

eyelevel spears, the grass needs cutting.

His old man sings a brief September song.

He thinks he’s young inside his vibrant song

that celebrates an autumn’s rout, his eyes

spill maudlin tears unused to cutting

thoughts of friends’ obituaries wind-

ing round his auricle.  Happiness flies

about and through him though mosquitoes, flies,

Lyme tics attack his optimistic song

that must prevail before the winter wind

blows him to smithereens. The nays and ayes

of being mortal promenade his cutting

edge of fall. He holds a blood-rose cutting,

counts what years. Jays scree. Time flies.

He’s told “You never change!” To realize      

a permanence, his voice, his season’s song

of hope for one more spring needs a woodwind

riff of loneliness, a purple side-wind

crown of morning glories under-cutting

fear of losing faith. His great-grand-father’s song

quavers, hearing dulls, the young man’s music flies

while sunlight mounts before his blinded eyes.

Autumnal song of tenderness, the heart’s cutting

flies to silence, wounds our lidded eyes.

Lament for W.D.S.

A strain to think a favorite poet died

who could have heard the Etudes you were playing

and written his delight at what was said

by handsome virtuosity. Dismaying,

knowing the one with funny moniker

who rolled his timps, considered Hughes Cuenod

his tonal guide and aural chronicler,

cannot send back appreciative rondeaux.

How much you want bravura to explore

the amplitude his etude-poems can snare.

They change a life, its gists and piths.

William de Witt had hungry ears to hear.

Tenors, poets sicken, gulp, eat earths.

No one mentions Snodgrass anymore.

Brahms: Intermezzo in A major, Op. 118 no. 2

by William Aide, piano

Intermezzo in B minor, Op. 119 no. 1

by William Aide, piano

Chopin: Etude in C major, Op. 10 no. 1

by William Aide, piano (Grotrian-Steinweg)

Chopin: Etude in F major, Op. 10 no. 8

by William Aide, piano (Grotrian-Steinweg)

Chopin:Etude in C# minor, Op. 10 no. 4

by William Aide, piano (Grotrian-Steinweg)

Chopin Etude in B minor, Op. 25 no. 10

by William Aide, piano (Grotrian-Steinweg)

Interview on Glenn Gould

Bach: Prelude and Fugue in F# major, WTC I
Prelude and Fugue in F# minor, WTC I

Kenneth Winters
William Aide, piano

Interview on Glenn Gould

by Kenneth Winters William Aide, piano

Prokofieff: The Ugly Duckling

by Hans Christian Andersen

Elizabeth Soederstroem, soprano and reciter
William Aide, piano

Prokofieff: The Ugly Duckling

by Elizabeth Soederstroem, soprano and reciter William Aide, piano

Mussorgsky: Nursery


With Nanny

In the Corner
The Beetle
With the Doll
At Bedtime
Ride on a Hobby Horse
The Cat, “Sailor”
Elizabeth Soederstroem, soprano
William Aide, piano

Mussorgsky: Nursery

by Elizabeth Soederstroem, soprano - William Aide, piano

Villanelles for Eight Hands

Fialkowska with Tafelmusik

Janina plays his glistening Pleyel
to honour Chopin’s masterwork; concealed,
the piece is in her hands, she knows it well.
It spurred her on to win in Israel
where Maestro Rubinstein became her shield.
Janina plays the glistening Pleyel
three decades later, far beyond the girl
she was; whatever fate would yield,
the piece is in her hands, she plays it well.
Such bravery reading swift and wonderful,
her agony and tenderness annealed,
Janina plays her glistening Pleyel.
Choleric bullies, bores, distracted souls
relinquish tickets, listen to be healed.
The piece is in her hands, she knows it well.
Our inner wars are vanquished? Who can tell?
While doves fly fast across the battlefield,
Janina knows her glistening Pleyel
and peace is in her hands, she plays it well.

finale of a World War I recital

The history of style, the dogs of war,
unleashed on a piano without hammers.
Write all this down, what is transcription for?
On Bluethner rack the incendiary score—
Debussy, Stravinsky—Katzenjammers
teaming up to read the dots of war.
Colossal technique jams an open door
to chanting elders, adolescent screamers.
Write all this down, what is transcription for
but to record revolt, concussion, stark décor,
barbaric orchestration, leaping mummers,
prophetic fists that mesh the cogs of war.
The Demoiselle Elue is nude, her hair,
her ginger pubis, fanning outraged stammers;
two merest hands show what transcription’s for.
The Rite’s explosion snares the Kaiser’s snore,
his dislocated rhythms, Europe’s jammers;
the history of style, the gods of war
are written out. What is transcription for?

Pale Rider
Eileen Joyce on Parlaphone

Wee ragged Eilee, barefoot, stayed the course.
Big Percy Grainger’s transcendental child,
sheet-lightning, spurred a Pegasean horse.
Never had such swiftness known such force;
A blessed birth, imagination bold,
young ragged Eilee, chosen, stayed the course,
abandoned kin and country, found her voice,
enjoined her grueling regimen which filed
a circuit for her Pegasean horse.
Continents cheered; for better or for worse
beneath astonished hands her keyboard smiled.
Brave ragged Eilee, glamoured, stayed the course
until she tired, dismounted sans remorse,
refused artistic racetracks; carouselled,
she dropped the reins, her Pegasean horse
would pasture mild, while spirit sought divorce
from speed in order to be reconciled
(Eilee, astride a Pegasean horse)
to Eileen Joyce, whose mind had stood the course.

Fuguing Tune

It’s time to write a villanelle on Gould.
To consecrate our leading citizen
a formal poem, provocative and bold!
Since pianists overpopulate the world
let Schoenberg, J.S. Bach determine when
it’s time to write a villanelle on Gould
with 12-tone lines by cancrizans unspooled
in counterpoint – synonymous with Glenn –
a formal poem, provocative and bold!
It’s too well known that many have been fooled
by novels, documentaries, plays! – the yen
to write a proper villanelle on Gould
should be suppressed! For fingers Russian-schooled
and myriad musicians Asian
a formal poem, provocative and bold
might do the trick, might even break the mold
of imitating one whose art we ken
(now burn to ash this villanelle unglued!)
an epic poem, provocative and bold!

Rembrandt’s First Masterpiece

What have you done, master of light and dark,
to render glinting pieces flung like offal
at insusceptible feet, to paint such stark
repentance, gasping agony, refusal?
The Judas hands clasp misery; they stole;
(Why did he need the money?); their woeful clench
constricts prophetic words, “…by whom betrayal
comes”. Turned head soft-bloodied– what will winch
his kneeling figure vertical? Remorse,
its drawn beauty, keening abolition.
What have you painted, beardless Bible scholar?
turbans, shield, predestined book of power
blaze in light. In dark, agape’s curse.
Rembrandt stared, suffered a thief’s contrition.

Mulgrave Castle, North Yorkshire

Self-Portrait With Black Beret

You, Andrew Mellon, plant yourself daily
smack in front of this unembellished face;
he and you spare little time to dally,
his self so live, your self so in disgrace
with life. A cutting critic surely—
eye pouches, furrowed brow, lacerating gaze,
potato nose, blotched cheek, tight mouth purely
murmuring disease, your rich disguise?
Or am I far outside an owner’s constancy,
windily ignorant of money’s use?
Envy is viridian, for what you’ve done
is saved his face, his rueful bankruptcy,
preserved as mirror Rembrandt’s incision,
its harrowing beauty your sole excuse.

National Gallery, Washington

Rembrandt as Zeuxis

Crone in corner, garter marks on stubby legs,
bent-over mirth at wizened Aphrodite
caused that ancient painter to expire.
He actually died laughing.
But what’s this toothless lion chortling about—
the lousiness of growing old alone,
the puncturing anxiety of death,
a looking-glass not quite perused before?
Puff-pastry for a cap, maulstick for support,
in this dankest of shadows
one fat old man’s scumbled amusement at
his clamorous forgiving bereft and sinful self.

Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne

Return of the Prodigal Son
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Even if Jesus never shared it
the Prodigal Son’s a
parable for all seasons
deserving a stanza
or two to reflect
a bishop’s fatherly pluck
in lifting terror off a foster son’s
tyre-laced neck
or in another Dutch-time
to eyeball Rembrandt’s accurate charity,
the same by name,
contrition’s lifting ampersands,
prodigal love’s gravity—
the father’s kneading hands.

We are wooden bystanders
unindignant, indifferent blurs,
brothers, maybe, who look on splendours
with open eyes:
for all time and now
mantled in Rembrandt red,
his brow shining
the father lifts his son’s transgression;
thin frame, cut feet, shorn head
lean in
to his father’s loins,
both their eyes blind-closed, learning vision
in touch alone.

The DuPré Poems

the teacher, William Pleeth

Was it a hunch or was he clairvoyant
assigning this autumn piece to a mere girl
whose ringing authority was heaven-sent
at the very first lesson, the opening bow-stroke?
He testified that everything was ready
in her mind, her two hands at once spoke
Elgar in the making. After one day
she memorized the opening chapter.
How could he have known? Their duets of laughter
unfolded blossoming, a codger’s melancholy,
his attitude to life, a book of hereafter
becoming her own, her pearl of great price.

she meets Daniel Barenboim

They shared a phone call, comparing fevers,
who had the larger glandular swellings,
who endured longer fatigues:
these unromantic entertainments.
Then they met by design at Fou T’songs.
Shyly, she asked him to join her joyousness
in offering up Beethoven’s A major:
it was love at first listening,
part-playing prodigiously aligned,
kindling an instant incandescence,
running together, where there was no following:
sonatas applauded till morning.


Cruelty, anti-semitic novelty.
Bearers of good news she couldn’t escape
explained in the plainest medical terms
this unbearable affliction:
cause of it all defection to Israel.
The faith of her husband would
first numb her fingers,
her inner ear and hands despoiling
the body following after.
A kindly persecution, her music
stayed in her head till she died.
She needed love more than forever.


Her discography reads like a requiem.
Taller than Barenboim, lovelier than springtime.
She came late to Bach; they spoke about “Jauchzet”.
The Elgar: a swansong rare, lofted, vanishing, her very own.
Dvorak’s triumphant grief running over, like freedom.
The Schumann’s opening phrase – we gaped in wonder.
Endlessness, her teacher said it first, the ambit of her talent,
the possible everything .
Her conversation in the Ghost, in the Trout, stirring, amused, civil.
We heard the darkened Elgar, her last controlled performance.
How her family of lovers withdrew, how she almost
wasted alone.
How the music restories the life.
Orlando Gibbons: this is the record of Jacqueline.