Melanie R. Hill

Prayer, Prophecy, and Praise: The Science of Music and the Making of Sacred Space


In Black Performance Theory, Dr. D. Soyini Madison’s foreword explicates the imperatives and aesthetics of Black expressive culture and the ways in which Blackness is performatively examined in time and space. This scholarship emphasizes performance, performativity, and the performative as significant terms that develop a greater theoretical paradigm of Black performance. Madison defines performance as the actual event or “cultural staging”: It is the song that is sung, the book that is written, and the poem that is dramatically performed. The performativity is defined as the marker of identity — in other words, how a song is sung, the style in which a book is written, and the poetics of fluid verses. The performative is the tangible historical or cultural difference that results from the union of both performance and performativity. In Scripture, the relationship between sacred music and healing are illustrated efficaciously: 1 Samuel 16:14 - 23 narrates David playing his lyre before Saul, aiding Saul’s healing from the evil spirit that tormented him. Prayer, Prophecy, and Praise is a three - part sacred music presentation, examining how Gospel music scientifically heals, and spiritually moves the psyche, body, and spirit. This paper/presentation/and artistic performance is more of an alternative and potentially longer format, amalgamating music performance, and the relationship between healing, religion, and the sciences. During the COVID-19 pandemic, how has sacred music helped heal the psyche and spirits of  pastors and laity? What are the ways in which stringed instruments, particularly the violin, transform and heal the body, materially and immaterially? This presentation evinces the scientific efficacy of stringed instruments in both natural and supernatural realms.


Melanie R. Hill received her Ph.D. in English literature with concentrations in Africana Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Hill is assistant professor of American Literature at Rutgers University, Newark. She has published articles on black feminism/womanism and the art of the sermon in African American literature. Dr. Hill is also a Gospel soul violinist who has performed at the White House on two occasions under the Obama administration, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the Apollo Theater in New York, the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and for Pope Francis’s Papal Mass during his historic visit to the United States. She’s also been featured on Showtime at the Apollo, Good Day Philadelphia, BET, and has performed for Senator Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole, Mrs. Susan L. Taylor, and opened for John Legend.


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