Hot off the press! Professor Brehm's new book Kaleidophonic Modernity (Fordham UP, 2023) explores the development of mechanical sound recording technology in the nineteenth century by charting the orbits of writers, scientists, and artists in France and the United States. Working between comparative literature, the history of science, and urban studies, Prof. Brehm builds a bridge between studies of visual culture and histories of sound.
The book focuses on the poet and inventor Charles Cros and his lover, the celebrated concert pianist and salonnière Nina de Villard. Cros's scientific endeavors ranged from color photography, to telecommunications, to mechanical sound reproducibility. In his poetry the Surrealists found an ancestor and inspiration. His literary and scientific works, as Prof. Brehm reveals, prove startling and relevant to predicaments of technological media in his own time and ours. For nearly twenty years Nina de Villard presided over a supremely daring intellectual salon. There, she welcomed manifold literary, artistic, and musical luminaries into a veritable crucible of the artistic avant-garde and precursor to the famous Chat Noir cabaret. Together, Cros and Villard help reframe scholarly approaches to Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Baudelaire, and Walt Whitman (each the focus of a chapter in the book), icons of urban modernity who can now be seen and heard in a kaleidophonic light, one that offers a compelling new perspective on modern mediascapes.