By taking a cultural approach to the quarrel between Gluckists and Piccinnists, I hope to have demonstrated that the very labels are problematic, because they were constructed over time during a process of dynamic opposition between individuals and approaches which only gradually coalesced into opposing musical philosophies. Unlike the majority of previous commentators, I have tried to avoid seeing this controversy as but the latest in a series of disputes over 'French' and 'Italian' music, but have instead tried to attend to its specificities. This is not of course to deny that continuities are also observable, nor that the quarrel returns to issues debated during the Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns, that over Lully, and the Querelle des Bouffons. But I suggest that seeing this quarrel as another episode in that series, misses a range of specific issues posed in the 1770s: debates over reform to opera along the lines of simplicity, eventually displaced by neoclassical discourse, political fault lines in the wake of the death of Louis XV, literary liberalization in that same context and particularly the translation of Shakespeare by Le Tourneur.