Thank you, Kevin, for your responses to my question about authentication.
The several written descriptions of Twain's voice I've read, including
his own, do not assemble into one recognizable model. Some depict his
long-talk style as bothersome, nearly intolerable, others think it
charming. Some say he mumbles and then that he sounds strong and
clear. A deep voice that sings soprano? A southern twang with a
western lilt and a Yankee clip? And while it is tantalizing hearing
the 1934 recording of William Gillette imitating Mark Twain imitating
the garrulous old fictional character, Simon Wheeler, it is three
times removed -- too much of a stretch.
You asked why I asked the authentication question. It was to find the
answer (Yes), to find if anyone cared enough to answer (Yes, you!), to
find if the general acceptance of there being no surviving recording
is due to some systematic or directed search around Europe and the
English-speaking world that turned up nothing (No, apparently), and
finally to rattle the silence a bit regarding his missing voice.
Being able to authenticate a Twain voice recording is necessary to
permit offering a reward to the discoverer. If a reward is
sufficiently enticing and well publicized, for quite some time it
could put hundreds of hands to work around the globe hoping to earn
Given Twain's celebrity and his frequent speechifying during a time of
new recording technology, chance would credibly allow the survival of
the random unmarked box of wax cylinders in a dark corner of some
forgotten attic. Example: German Chancellor Otto von Bismark's voice
recording from the 1880s that was found behind Thomas Edison's desk
and played about 120 years later. We are past the century mark for the
age of any Twain recording, so searching sooner is better than later.
On Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 9:56 AM, Dave Davis <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> If anyone ever finds this "Holy Grail" of Twain studies, it will be Kevin,
> I predict.
> And, whoever does find it -- if ever such a thing is found -- will be on
> the front page of the NYT and the WSJ.
> On Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 9:34 AM, Kevin Mac Donnell <
> [log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> I've spent hours and hours researching this subject over the last thirty
>> years. I've found quite a few times when Twain was recorded --twice as many
>> as are generally known-- and spent many more hours (and money) trying to
>> track down those recordings in archives and among descendants of those
>> involved in the recordings. There are still loose ends (in the US and
>> Europe) and I will probably put it into an article eventually, so, no, I'm
>> not inclined to give away my research. Sorry. I do wish you luck with
>> whatever that "something" is that you are working on!
>> Mac Donnell Rare Books
>> 9307 Glenlake Drive
>> Austin TX 78730
>> Member: ABAA, ILAB