Renaissance music developed about 100 years after the movement had sprung up in other disciplines and it is difficult to ascertain when the medieval period ended and the Renaissance began. The music was significantly influenced by developments in philosophy, politics and the emergence of what we now refer to as Modern history. With the rise of the bourgeois class, music as an activity for educated amateurs as well as professionals became more widespread, not to mention that the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press strengthened the distribution of music’s availability.
Music became increasingly freed from its medieval constraints, in terms of range, rhythm, harmony, form, and notation, and became a means for new personal expression. Composers found ways to make music expressive of the texts they were setting.
During the Renaissance, sacred music was the principal type of formally notated music across Europe. Hundreds of motets, masses by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, William Byrd and Josquin des Prez make up a huge part of the magnificent Renaissance vocal repertoire. Madrigals were more light-hearted, secular songs, consisting of musical settings of unrequited love poetry and songs about the seasons, eating and drinking, very popular in Renaissance Italy and England.