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The Storied Italian Composition Buried Within Metro: Last Light

The surface of the Earth may be a blasted wasteland, its music shops and symphony halls reduced to smoldering ruins. But as long as humans survive, so too will music. It's in that spirit that I enjoy the music of Metro 2033 and its equally post-apocalyptic sequel, Metro: Last Light. The games have a distinct musical sensibility, as the grim men and women surviving in the irradiated Moscow Metro carry on the musical traditions of… well, mostly of folk guitar and heavy metal. Cool by me.


Earlier today, Chris observed how many of the everyday-life details in Metro: Last Light can make the game's cities feel uniquely lived-in. I agree, and the music plays a big part in that. In Last Light's early goings, you'll make a tour through a well-known entertainment city, sort of the last bastion of the theatre for post-apocalyptic Russia.


Before you get back on the road, you'll have a chance to watch an onstage musical revue. The performances are awkward in the way video game performances usually are (tiny audiences, stilted dancing, awkward looping applause animations), but there are a few musical gems, if you stay for the whole show.

My favorite performance was the one in the video above, in which a guitarist performs a famous theme by Italian violinist and composer Nicholò Paganini. It's called Caprice No. 24; here's a video of the great Jascha Heifetz performing it:

I love this theme, partly because it's very nice on its own, but mostly because when I was in high school, our symphonic band played an arrangement based on it. That piece was called Symphony Fantasy Variations of a Theme by Nicholo Paganini, composed by James Barnes. Check out the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra's performance:

Looking through the YouTube comments, it seems it's popular among all-state high school wind ensembles. That's at least partly because it's arranged to highlight each individual section in the band. I was always bummed that the saxophone variation was so calm, but listening to it now, it's actually quite lovely. Nothing can top the solo bass clarinet movement, though.

There's a lot of great music in the world of Metro: Last Light, but that performance stood out amidst the guitar strumming and heavy metal drumming. Paganini would probably be happy to know that even in fictional post-apocalyptic Russia, his music lives on.

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Good to know the people at 4A have kept the tradition alive.