The other day, I got a check in the mail for $404.79. Before I tell you where it came from, I have to digress.
My dad was born in Germany, and emigrated to this country during the war. Before he left his homeland at the age of nineteen, he had published his first book in German: a translation of an eighteenth-century classic text of music composition that had been used by Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and scores of other illustrious others. The original text was in Latin; my dad’s translation was, of course, into German.
After arriving here, he was eventually drafted into the American army and shipped overseas, ending up back in Europe as a counterintelligence agent tasked with debriefing citizens. The war’s close found him in a town near the mountain whereupon sat the castle occupied by the legendary composer Richard Strauss (of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” fame) (you know, the dramatic music that plays when the apes discover the big thingamajig in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001”).
So my dad goes up the mountain to interrogate Strauss — and finds the old man teaching his own grandnephew composition, using (wait for it) my dad’s book.
After returning to the States, my dad eventually translated the book again, this time into English, and it was published here by W.W. Norton as The Study of Counterpoint. I learned composition from it when I was a teenager; it’s still used in schools today.
And by now, I’ll bet you’ve guessed how this ties back in. That $404.79 check came from W.W. Norton. It represents my portion of this royalty period’s proceeds from a book my dad started when he was a teenager in the 1930s and began translating into English before I was born.
After depositing that check, I went out with my son Chris and bought an LCD monitor has has been wanting. I’m sure my dad never imagined that his efforts at the age of nineteen would pay for his twenty-year-old grandson’s computer monitor — but they did.
Residual is like that. It defies the entropy of time. It lasts.