Lake Black Town is a compostional research project funded by a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts, awarded to JayVe Montgomery along with but not limited to collaborators Li Harris, and Ben LaMar Gay.

We will deeply listen to the liminal spaces and stories surrounding “drowned towns”. By using creative field recording techniques to listen to the water, soil, flora and fauna of recreation, racism, and hydroelectric progress built atop flooded American dreams we will construct a modular composition of soundscape storytelling. This is a practice of the modalities of Deep Listening and Great Black Music. This is the sound of remembering.

We will present the work in progress to communities near Kentucky Lake, KY; Lake Marion, SC; Lake Norman, Lake James, Belews Lake, NC; Lake Martin, AL; and Lake Lanier, GA when welcomed to do so. Ultimately Nashville and Chicago will see larger multichannel performances of the work and a studio recording.

Thank you for your ears. 

Birmingham, KY

Between the Rivers is the name of the region in which Birmingham, Kentucky existed as the most significant town to be drowned by the Tennessee Valley Authority in the creation of Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkeley and Kentucky Dam for hydroelectric “progress” and a yet to arrive  time of mass recreation for Americans. 

While Birmingham was nearly between the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, it also sat between aspirations of being an iron town like its namesake in Enlgand, and being an American town rife of the racism of its Alabaman namsake. It is called the most significant town to be drowned in the effort because it had a population larger than the county seat and was a place where both African Americans and whites found work in the iron and timber industries. March 08, 1908, brought Birmingham a flood of 150 “night riders” led by Dr. Emilus Champion. The organized mob of masked marauders cut telephone lines, shot up African American homes and dragged several prominent African Americans out of their homes and to the banks of the Tennessee River where they were whipped with ox whips and threatened to flee or be killed. John Scruggs and his granddaughter died from gunshot wounds. There were helpful whites, but they did not outnumber the racist mob who would dispossess African Americans of 60 acres, 21 city lots and life itself . More on the raid can be found here.

Below you’ll find images from my February 26 visit. I recorded the air in binaural fashion. Immediately my expectations of the project changed. How much of today’s recreational soundscape will I allow the piece to have? What does it say to edit it out? What is the sound of emptiness? 

I also recorded with the geophone for the first time and devised a method to get information from deeper in the earth than I had first thought possible and that is by sticking a grandfather clock tine rod into the ground and using the geophone magnet to pick up the vibrations as seen below.

A return visit is needed to interact with foliage-triggered synthesizer accompaniment and myself/collaborators. How much of my sound will be in the field recordings? The youtube video below is a compilation document of some of the sounds gathered at the site as well as an overlay of the Historical Topgraphical Map Explorer found at 

The piece in progress will be titled “Between The Rivers”.


GalleryAbstractBlack Music (ASCAP)
Outer Music City