About TSS Pro Musica

Help us further our mission of Better Music, Better World.
(Pictured left to right: Michael Heald, Margaret Audrey Snyder, Liza Stepanova, David Starkweather)

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

We take our name from this short poem by Robert Frost.

We are part of a love story

Founded in 2017 in memory of Marie Anne De Lattre Patten of Athens, GA and the Gull Pond Community at Piercefield, NY. Marie was a sociologist, social worker, and special education teacher. A refined and proper lady, private dreamer of dreams for human betterment. She held quietly but firmly to simple convictions born of her own life's experiences, such as, that the sum of human happiness is proportional to better things going on in cultures. Better Music was, to her, a leading one of these better things. She is our love story.

We exist to make a difference in individual lives

The Secret Sits Pro Musica Ensembles is a nonprofit musical charity incorporated in the states of Georgia and New York. We are devoted to the mission that Better Music makes a Better World.


Our purpose is to create and help train small music ensembles and provide opportunities for them to perform live Better Music as cost-free as can be in public places. But also, not so simple, to always relate music and the musical activities that engage us to our understanding of the natural world around us. Music and nature — they go together.

The following schematic diagram depicts the elements in our game plan.

mobius strip

Mission Motivation

Before proceeding with this section, please view some of the following video of a symphonic band at Madison County High School in Danielsville, GA, giving particular attention to the tympanist.

This student tympanist graduated in 2016 when the video was made. He didn't go to college. He loves music, is an able percussionist, takes to musical instruments easily without instruction, and he wants to be a professional musician. What he is, or was until recently, is a professional truck driver, a needed profession but not his dream. Coming from a rural upbringing, lacking both money and cultural support, the fates were against him pursuing his dream. The red wedge to the right in the Mobius strip diagram might as well have been a dagger through the heart of his further musical advancement. This student is the son of someone we know, which motivates us to prevent such endings to aspirations as much as we can, for as many as we can, of young people for whom opportunity is foreclosed by circumstances of their origins. Our young drummer, by the way, recently left trucking to return to school and pursue his passion, only to learn he couldn't afford it. We want to help him, and others like him, take the school-of-hard-knocks route to their dreams when we can.

The other red wedge in the Möbius diagram reflects another kind of story, this one exemplified by another video. This video gives no history about how this older and obviously capable street musician might have, for personal or social reasons or both, become blocked from better expressing his giftedness to the world around him. One observer knew his name: "Kyrylo Kostukovsky." Another wrote this comment: "He is from Ukraine Kiev. He is great person and polite. He is enjoying his life by play his own music. Money what he has from street, he shares with people who needs." Another person said, "I’m sooo touched by this. No idea why I’m crying." Somewhere in this man's former life he became disadvantaged or perhaps wounded by circumstances — the red 'dagger' again, the left wedge this time in the Möbius diagram. We are committed to eliminating such impediments to talent, young or old, wherever we can reach.

The sitting secret in 'Gaia'

Gaia image by: Joohee Yoon

Beyond our love story, we also have another story we want to explore as a kind of metaphysical ecology — the 'Secret' that 'sits' as this applies to the ecological complex of life and non-life that is coming more and more in science and human affairs to be seen as a unitary planetary superorganism — 'Gaia'. The Gaia conception is 'deep background' for the 'Better World' activities we are getting organized to pursue. Why something, not nothing? To be or not to be? What is life? Who am I? What am I? Such questions handed down through the ages of human existence have bedeviled us since our ancestral forms first emerged in the energy and matter flow-streams of our evolving planet. We, Homo 'sapiens', want to know, and in TSS, Inc. we want in particular to explore how music, which humans have generated throughout human history, fits into and serves our quest for self-knowledge. We are going to try something hard here, and we are aware we cannot succeed in our time, except maybe in small ways.

Remember that old (16th Century) nursery rhyme about cats and fiddles, and cows and moons? Here's a Secret-Sits version of it that holds some entertainment interest, while also acknowledging the probable futility of any kind of metaphysical understanding coming out of anything we might attempt on whatever ground there is between music and nature:

Hey Diddle, Diddle the cat and the fiddle
The cow jumps over the moon
The little dog sighs, the Secret never dies
The dish runs away with the spoon
The Secret sits and knows in the middle
But it won't be revealed too soon.

Hopeless, yes; but we can still surmise it is a property of the life-force itself relentlessly to push against intransigent ignorance at the boundary between living and nonliving existence until, ... until, in some faraway age ahead a first domino might fall, and a first glimmer of universal light start to shimmer out of the darkness. So, join us if you will contact us, and bring your own thoughts, facts, and speculations to this table of our key lofty questions.

Do nature and music share the same fundamentals of order and organization?

Can music theory, intricately developed, inform ecological theory, inchoately developed?

Can the quality of music, like that of nature's living networks, be quantified?

Science makes a distinction between physical (or ontic) and phenomenal (epistemic) reality. The physical is real, and studied in empirical science. The phenomenal is virtual, and its study must rely more on theoretical science. The Gaia Hypothesis concerns largely empirical phenomena as expressed at the global level. Complementing this is a 'Janus Hypothesis' which concerns the development of phenomenal processes from the primary physical ones. Music is a phenomenon we best understand as a production of our own species. In our third 'lofty question' we seek to quantify music quality (which is virtual) and relate this to the network organization of nature (also virtual) because both have their origins in concrete biogeophysical flows of energy and matter on the planetary surface (which is concrete — ontic). The fluxes of energy-and-matter are real — transactional, but the networks that carry them around are epistemic and virtual — relational. Without life, there would be only one category of reality — the physical. Its laws would come strictly from physics and chemistry and would govern the energy and matter transactions that connect physical quantities two at a time. Add life to the mix and its physical requirements demand no less than that a second category of existence also be created — the phenomenal. This is encompasses a virtual world of information synthesis and transfer, a semiotic reality of biologically-generated signs and signals and rules and meanings that are physically-based, but organism-contained and species-specific. The phenomenal interactions are realized in binary relations. These turn transactional transfers of energy and matter to the service of living processes. DNA is the master molecule underneath, down deep in cells, serving as blueprint, template — or better word, model — in the service of life's diverse forms (8.7-million species, by current best estimates) and processes. Yes, 8.7-million model-making wild cards inserted into the flow-streams of physical reality, making the biosphere an unfathomably complex unit of a whole planet, a mix of 'Gaia' and 'Janus' mutually co-implicated, whose progress in evolutionary history toward becoming a unitary superorganism has been interrupted five times by mass extinctions. Music is everywhere in human nature, as it is also in biospheric nature. Sonic signaling is ubiquitous — bird songs, amphibian choruses, insect stridulations, whales sending and receiving low-frequency vocalizations transmitted across great ocean distances, and who knows how much more. Treating music as both sound (physical) and sense (phenomenal), we plan in our research to apply to music landscapes mathematical methods we developed to understand how ecological networks are organized in nature's land- and sea-scapes. Specifically, referring to our 'key lofty questions' above, we expect to: 1– compare network organizations within and between music and ecosystems; 2–explore music theory by applying ecological network analysis to it; and 3– quantify the quality of music as we already do that of ecosystems (Yes, we intend to answer in numerical ranking who is the greatest western composer — Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, or ... ?)

Our Mission of Better Music, Better World

In pursuit of Marie's Better World, it is to create and help train small music ensembles and provide opportunities for them to perform live Better Music as cost-free as can be in public places. But also, not so simple, to always relate music and the musical activities that engage us to our understanding of the natural world around us. Music and nature — they go together.