We cannot be snobs about this. If we are to chase music 'better-ness' in what we do, this has to be (for us) scientifically measurable. Here is our quick, unscientific classification of 'better' in music, based on our body zones and their related sensibilities. In ascending order: visceral (lower body), cardiac (mid-body), and cerebral (upper body). If Elvis, Michael, and REM (gut); or Bing, the Beetles, and Ella (heart); can coexist in quality terms with Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart (head); that will be interesting indeed to find out. If otherwise, that will be interesting too. Music is humanly-audible organized sound. Sound is produced by molecular motions of gases, liquids, or solids induced by work performed on them by electro-magnetic energy. The strength of this energy is determined by waves of different frequencies (higher frequencies, more energy), or equivalently (physics' wave-particle duality), elementary particles, known as photons. The photons do work to put molecules of a physical medium into motion. 'White noise' is the statistically random ground state of electromagnetism. There is no music in, or possible from, sonic white noise. Energy, the capacity to do work as all of us are taught, can neither be created nor destroyed. When work is done, energy is degraded, meaning it is dispersed into a larger number of lower-energy photons in a process called photon multiplication. Energy from the sun showers the planet in higher-energy 'yellow' photons (sunlight), and in various earthly processes (like life, or music production) where work is done these are progressively degraded to a larger number of lower-energy 'red' photons — heat, which cannot at earthly temperatures do work. In music, energy does work to induce motions of molecules at humanly audible frequencies. In doing this work the energy degrades from higher to lower states, and ultimately is dissipated as heat, which is the lowest state reachable at earth temperatures. The further away from this 'heat-death', or maximum-entropy state, music (or for that matter, life itself) is, the higher its quality. In principle, therefore, music quality can be measured; it's not just a matter of human preference or taste. These develop as secondary responses to primary quality factors already inherent in the music. Realizing this, we have adopted the quantification of music quality as one of our 'key lofty questions' (see ABOUT US.2 THE SITTING SECRET IN 'GAIA') and prime research undertakings. Under our tutelage, one of our student music/math majors, Nicholas Lindell, has produced a UGA Masters' thesis on the topic. We hope eventually this mixing of science and music will become one of the most interesting and distinctive features of our program.
TSS, Inc. is about something more in existence than just music, grand and justifiable for singular attention as this is. Marie's Better Music is one thing; her Better World a different category. Or is it? Are they related? The first assertion on our home page declared, "We are part of a love story." We meant this as the personal psychological love of the heart we humans all experience, but also more generally we meant love as a metaphorical tie-that-binds for good(+) over evil(–) expressed in all life wherever and whenever in the universe positive(+) vs. negative(–) self-organizing forces come to be opposed in living beings. Love, a universal life-force for good as we take it, is part of a cosmic existential story unfolding under no control, meandering pointlessly way above the elementary particles defining physical existence through a universe indifferent to the fates of any life-forms it may create, no matter how sentient forms that in some spheres at least must bear wrenching loss with finality as other loved(+) beings most precious and dear are removed(–) from them. In our species, on earth, if one cannot be inspired to higher heights from the enormity of such inflicted loss, then from what? So yes, knowing that 'music hath charms(+) to soothe the savage beast(–)' that is at-once, as the late poet Mary Oliver has said, "a nurturing and ravaging reality", we are a music programthat takes our species' deeply inherent musicality to be one of its special ways of relating to the big existential 'Secret' that 'sits'. In our research program we turn to the task of unlocking — 'un-secreting' — that Secret, even just a bit, knowing it's a steep climb and we will surely fail (Mary Oliver again), but knowing also we are not alone in trying.
Each of the 8.7 million species in the biogeophysical world of the 'Gaia Hypothesis' is an ecological island ensemble. Like ours, each is locked within its own specific ways of pursuing life's match to a changing planet in a system of collective activity that is complex beyond imagination. Below we will introduce our 'Janus Hypothesis' about how nature self-organizes to match the physical and phenomenal phases of reality by inventing and intercalating new life forms and extinguishing and removing older ones less fitted to new circumstances. This is not at all unlike the cut-and-try of musical composition, and truly, life's ebbs and flows over near-time mirror music's changes also with humanity's different developmental stages. Both achieve true "Harmony in Context", as the title of a popular textbook of music theory puts it.
In fact, both are pretty identically the same in kind in being expressions of flows and storages of photons, the elementary particles of electromagnetic radiation. With this, pursuing music 'betterness' becomes a matter of pursuing it in the electromagnetic reality stream that, on earth, defines and expresses concrete existence. Frost's 'Secret' that 'sits' and it only knows is, we consider, under broad 'un-secreting' attack by all the collected life forms that thrive and strive to 'know' too, in their unique domains and ways. In our species, we take music to be one of our questing mechanisms, and as such, one of the keys to the intangible beyond where ultimate knowledge rests in the poet's sitting Secret.
The late ecologist Lynn Margulis (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Lynn_ Margulis) once said, "Life did not take over the planet by [physical] combat, but by [phenomenal] networking." Networks, be they natural or musical, are of the essence everywhere in planetary organization. Science has shown ecological networks to exist over and over again in many ways. As one example, if you release a radioactive or other tracer substance as a point source into any environment on earth, it goes whoosh! — everywhere. Another 'whoosh' phenomenon has become the internet (physical) and world-wide-web (phenomenal). In just a very few years since their introduction, these technological innovations have spread over the globe to become now ineradicable features of modernity determining human lives everywhere. At the level of substance and signal transfer and transformation, the natural and human worlds both are widely interconnected by transactional energy–matter movements that have been well-patterned and etched into planetary land- and sea-scapes over deep geologic and evolutionary time to become the 'melodies' and 'harmonies' of hidden relational order and organization that all living inhabitants experience when they are alive. Life, as said before, by receiving and processing elements.