Dissertation Index

Author: Sivy, Robert J.

Title: Exposing Corruption in Progressive Rock: A Semiotic Analysis of Gentle Giant's The Power and the Glory

Institution: University of Kentucky

Begun: June 2014

Completed: November 2019


English progressive rock band Gentle Giant is catalogued under the progressive (or “prog”) rock genre for a variety reasons, including unique instrumentation, virtuosity, and interesting/unconventional musical attributes. The complexity of their music is often warranted by the sophisticated concepts behind their albums and the deep messages of their songs. The Power and the Glory (TPatG), Gentle Giant’s sixth studio album, is a concept album that emphasizes the rise and corruption of power. What makes their music, especially TPatG, worthy of scholarly attention beyond the simple examination of the compositional techniques employed is the way in which the message of their compositions is conveyed, and how that message is interpreted. In this project, I investigate the elements that contribute to this album’s theme via semiotic analysis.

I begin by exploring the discipline of semiotics as a method for analysis. Largely applied to language and literature, semiotic analysis has been recently adapted and applied to music study. Jean Molino’s method proposes a tripartite model for the analysis of music: analyses at poietic, neutral, and esthesic levels. A poietic level analysis examines the circumstances of the music’s creation, including origination, composition, production, and performance. Situating Gentle Giant among their contemporaries and TPatG among the band’s discography by outlining their history (both personal and professional) illuminates the conditions under which the album was generated and produced. An analysis of the neutral level defines the musical “trace,” or those quantifiable elements of the music (i.e., objective elements such as pitch, rhythm, etc.). These structures are explained in light of their usage throughout history and their impact on the album’s overarching theme of the corruption of power. An esthesic analysis describes the reception and interpretation of the music. I examine the socio-cultural impact the album has made and the influence it has had on musicians throughout the years. Molino’s tripartite method of analysis supports a comprehensive understanding of Gentle Giant’s TPatG, not solely musically by examining its structures, but socio-culturally as a part of the progressive-rock culture and, indeed, the broader music industry of the 1970s.

Keywords: progressive rock, Gentle Giant, semiotics, Jean Molino, popular music


Chapter 1 Gentle Giant and Musical Semiotics
1. Gentle Giant Scholarship
2. The Semiotic Method
3. Gentle Giant: A Brief History of the Band
4. Semiotics and Musical Meaning
5. Modern Semiotics
6. Toward a Semiotics of Music
7. Molino's Model and Bridging the Gap between Methods

Chapter 2 Poietic Level Analysis
1. Lead-up to TPatG
2. The Concept
3. Composition
4. Pre-Production
5. Studio Recording
6. Frustration and Success

Chapter 3 Neutral Level Analysis
1. Rhythm and Meter
2. Pitch Organization
3. Intervallic Germs
4. Timbre

Chapter 4 Esthesic Level Analysis
1. Commercial Success
2. Fans' Reactions and Band reflections
3. Quotations and Allusions
4. TPatG since 1974
5. Serious Fandom
6. Cultural Reaction and Influence

Chapter 5 Reflections and Future Research

A. Lyrics
B."So Sincere" Transcript
C. Instrumentation
D. TPatG Survey
E. Album Reviews


Robert Sivy

     Return to dissertations