The Music of the Cosmic Banditos

My sister knew a person in St. Louis who claimed to be able to find any book. I put him to the test. I had exhausted every avenue that I could; there was none of this Amazon madness in those days. One had to call bookstores around the country in hopes they had the book.

The Music of the Cosmic Banditos
Used under Shutterstock license, 2024.

I needed to refer to a particular passage in a book. I could not remember exactly which of my books the passage was in, but I had a decent idea. I consulted the library looking for the passage I had in my brain. Alas, I could not find the reference. Then it hit me. I was thinking about a reference to Guido d’Arezzo. It was the first time I had encountered the source of the names of the scale degrees.

Guido, who was responsible for the five-line staff, using his hand as a guide, is attributed with giving the names to notes of the major scale. The names came from the first syllable of each line of a hymn to Saint John.

Ut queant laxis
Resonare fibris
Mira gestorum
Famuli tuorum
Solve pollute
Labi[i] reatum,
Sancte Iohannes.

[O Saint John, in order that thy servants may be able to sing the praises of the marvels of thy deeds upon loosened harp-strings, cleanse those accused of the stain of sin.] The Ut being dropped at some point in favor of Do, except in France, of course. Si is derived from Sancte Iohannes.

I digress. I could not find the reference. Then I had a thought; perhaps it did not come from one of my music reference books, but from another writing. I found a reference in another of my notes/writings. I went in search of the book. I turned my library upside down. I could not find it. I had a passing thought; an "Aha!" moment, if you will. In turning my library upside down again alas, I could not locate the book.

I had a terrible thought. I went to my computer and brought up the spreadsheet I put together listing all the books I “sold” to Half-Price Books a year-and-a-half ago. My fears were confirmed. I had sold the book. In a state of panic, I called Half-Price Books at the first opportunity I had. No luck. The book was gone. The Music of the Spheres by Jamie James was mine no longer.

Not to be disheartened, I went on a search. These days that is as easy as logging onto Amazon, isn’t it? I found it immediately. Now, of course, the question was whether I wanted to shell out $65 dollars (plus shipping) for this book. Was it really necessary? After all, I had managed to survive without it for more than a year, and who knows how long before I put it in the box to be donated/sold.

This reminded me of another such situation. When I was in college, a friend loaned me a book to read. I was threatened with bodily harm should I not return it to her in pristine condition. I fell in love with the book. Even though it was relatively new to the market, having been published in 1986, it was not readily available in Border’s or Barnes & Noble bookstores (believe me, I looked). Just to ensure I had a copy of it forever, I made a photocopy of the entire book. My photocopy (housed in a three-ring binder) got loaned to several persons before I finally lost track of it. I was determined to find a replacement copy.

My sister knew a person in St. Louis who claimed to be able to find any book. I put him to the test. I had exhausted every avenue that I could; there was none of this Amazon madness in those days. One had to call bookstores around the country in hopes they had the book.

After months of searching: finding the book only to discover that the seller did not have a copy even though they showed one in inventory: he seemed to be chasing the book around the country (This, in retrospect, was amusing because that is one of the main subplots of the book – the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics where something can appear to be in multiple places at once, but never observable.) my sister called me one day to say that her acquaintance had located the book. It was in a bookstore not 50 miles from St. Louis. The acquaintance swore that he had contacted that seller, but it was, in fact another seller who contacted that seller, who in turn contacted him. (Thus keeping with the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.) There was a caveat, they were selling the book for $55. Back in the mid-1990s, that was a fortune to pay for a used paperback.

I agreed to the price. Things were set in motion. I had piqued the interest of the St. Louis bookseller. He wanted so much to read the book once it arrived. I, reluctantly, agreed as long as he promised the book would be in the same condition he had received it, when I finally took possession. He arranged for payment and delivery to his store. The elusive book was Cosmic Banditos by A.C. Weisbecker. I still have that copy. I keep it in a guarded place. Many years later (2001) I discovered that the book was, once again, in print, thus making my little adventure a complete waste of time. I have purchased the Kindle version of the book so I can read it at my caprice without disturbing my copy. 

Back to the present. I broke down; I purchased The Music of the Spheres from a Goodwill store in Colorado Springs. I was quite surprised to find the book in excellent condition. It looks as though it has not been touched since its publication 31 years ago in 1993. (To come full circle in these two tales, it was around 1993 the search began for Cosmic Banditos.)

I am now rereading The Music of the Spheres and quite enjoying it. I do so enjoy the interplay between math, science, and music. (That brings to mind yet another book: Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid (Douglas R. Hofstadter, copyright 1979, Basic Books, Inc.).) This is another book lost to loan. (Except, in that case, I know who has/had it, though, they would vehemently insist they returned it to me. Alas, ‘tis not the case, Horatio.)) I am taking utmost care with the book in an effort to maintain its fresh-from-the-presses condition.

After all, “When all is said and done, when all the shouting and philosophizing and moralizing is over, I suspect that this tale is simply another example of something.” (Cosmic Banditos, A.C. Weisbecker, 1986 by A.G.T.T.B. Ltd.)


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