One of the possible realizations of the score for “Requiem,” overlaid on a detail from "Impression Figure" by Margaret Watts Hughes. (Compilation: Marco Buongiorno Nardelli. Background image courtesy of Cyfarthfa Castle Museum and Art Gallery/Public Domain Review)

This summer, participants in SFI's education programs joined newly appointed external faculty member Marco Buongiorno Nardelli (University of North Texas) to create and perform “Requiem,” a unique piece of music based on features of complex systems. The performers were located around the world, with some performing in a local Santa Fe recording studio and others sending their contributions from their homes in Chile, Italy, and beyond. 

The result is an eerily captivating performance where vocalists count out an ever-increasing series of numbers against a backdrop of instruments, ranging from accordion to tambourine. As Buongiorno Nardelli writes in the notes for the score: "When in time of great catastrophe, human lives become numbers to be logged and forgotten. Here we honor those numbers."

Buongiorno Nardelli, a physicist and composer, created the score for "Requiem" through a generative composition algorithm that designs a directed network of nodes and paths, governed by general rules but otherwise different each time the program is run. The score serves as a guide rather than instructions, with extensive space for interpretation by the performers. The resulting music emerges from the collective actions of the musicians and vocalists as they respond to Buongiorno Nardelli's cues.

Buongiorno Nardelli put both performers and audience at the center of this creative event, demonstrating how something of deep meaning and aesthetic beauty can emerge from individuals — notes, voices, chords, instruments, and themes - that act collectively. This experiment in cooperative, complexity-motivated musical creation will be incorporated into a planned live event in Santa Fe in the near future. 

"This was a memorable performance and a fitting premiere for the piece. We faced many technical uncertainties because of COVID but the outcome demonstrates the strength of music and beauty of collaboration, especially in challenging times," said Buongiorno Nardelli. "It was amazing to see what this group of amateur musicians could create."

Listen, watch, and read the score notes at


Requiem MIX_complete.mp4 from Unknown Ajourney on Vimeo.