The French concept of Taste (goûût) has largely been viewed from an 18th-century tradition of aesthetics in which philosophers attempted to incorporate it into a rationalized systematic theory of musical expression. Its original 17th-century usage, however, was derived from the principles of classical rhetoric and noble etiquette, or politesse. Following the tenets of Cicero communicated by humanist writers, these principles require the ideal gentleman (the honnêête homme) to adapt his knowledge and talents (agrééments) to the requirements of good society just as an orator carefully chooses the appropriate rhetorical figures to convince and move his hearers. According to the principles of rhetoric, any overuse of figures (or agrééments) vitiates their very effectiveness by drawing attention to their artificiality. Thus the 17th-century understanding of taste required the concealment of labor, knowledge, and ““artifice”” behind an effortlessly ““natural”” and pleasing courtly facade. This concept of taste became influential in courtly contexts of amateur music-making in the early part of the century, when it was incarnated by Pierre de Nyert, whose manner of singing was hailed as the model of ““politesse du chant.”” The principles of politesse played a significant role in the controversy over Italian music, whose perceived overuse of ““learned”” musical figures (dissonance, chromaticism, and other techniques) was viewed as a bourgeois flaunting of musical talent and rhetorical artifice.
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