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The Guardian editor's account of a remarkable musical challenge during an extraordinary year for news.
Alan Rusbridger is Editor in Chief of the Guardian and a keen amateur musician. After reading English at Cambridge he started on a local newspaper and tried his hand at a range of journalistic jobs including reporter, columnist, critic, foreign correspondent, magazine editor, features editor and, from 1995, editor. During his time editing the Guardian the paper has won numerous awards and has grown to be one of the three largest online newspapers in the world. He led the paper's coverage of the secret WikiLeaks cables and the Guardian's campaign to get at the truth about phone hacking, which led to numerous resignations, the closure of the News of the World and the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practice and ethics of the British press. As a boy, he was a cathedral chorister, a reasonable orchestral clarinetist and a very mediocre pianist. He failed to be a world-class conductor, abandoned the organ and put his clarinets in the attic. In his mid 40s he restarted piano lessons and tried to make up for more than 30 years of missing technique. Since then, he has moved from very mediocre to mediocre . Find out more about Alan and the Ballade at
"Extraordinary... Prepare to be inspired" * Sunday Telegraph * "Bernard Levin once told me that journalism was "half gossip, half obsession, half slog and half madness". If that's true Play it Again is a minor classic from a major hack...it's about a stressed, insanely busy middle-aged person finding time to cultivate a hobby and discovering that his inner fire has been rekindled. That's a lesson we all need." -- Richard Morrison * The Times * "As soon as you enter the pages you are hooked, not just by the efforts to overcome this elusive piece through curiousity and courage, but by the clear way in which the diary takes the reader into the murky world of WikiLeaks and the still more polluted waters of phone hacking by News International... Riveting stuff... Play It Again is a hugely enjoyable, touching and informative volume" * Literary Review * "An absorbing and technically detailed book... Rusbridger is a vivid writer who is able to make the physical experience of playing the piano...very gripping." -- Nicholas Kenyon * Times Literary Supplement * "In his page-turning diary, Chopin has to make room for Julian Assange, Leveson and the hacking scandal... This charming, nimble, book argues that a life cannot be too rounded nor a day too full." * Daily Telegraph *
The struggle to keep up an inspiring musical hobby while maintaining a manic, high-powered career animates this sprightly memoir. Rusbridger, editor of London's Guardian newspaper and an amateur pianist, spent 18 months learning Chopin's Ballade in G Minor, a piece whose treacherous rhythms, blindingly fast filigree, thunderous chords, and death-defying keyboard leaps give fits to concert virtuosos. Rusbridger's account of trying to learn this widow-maker by practicing 20 minutes a day-longer sessions resulted in "burning shoots of pain"-makes an absorbing study in the intricate, exasperating physical niceties of high-performance piano playing. (His long-winded conversations with concert pianists from Daniel Barenboim to Murray Perahia on the meaning and emotional impact of the piece are less interesting, as talk about music tends to be; their pensees are usually as inchoate as Chopin's chromaticisms.) Meanwhile, Rusbridger handles breaking news (at one point he finds himself rehearsing the piece in war-torn Tripoli) and collaborates with Julian Assange on WikiLeaks revelations. The reader follows Rusbridger as he squeezes practice and a social life built around impromptu musicales into an unforgiving news cycle; the result is a vibrant tale of work-life balance-and an imaginative case for the continuing importance of amateurism in a world fixated on professional expertise. Photos. (Sept. 10) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.