Year of Publication

2019

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Fine Arts

Department

Music

First Advisor

Dr. Kevin Holm-Hudson

Abstract

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.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/etd.2019.459

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