The Renaissance is best described as a time of rebirth in science, learning,
and the arts in Europe from approximately 1400 to the end of the 16th
century. The changing of society increased the value of individualism peaking
interest in literature, philosophy and art, creating a new era of intellectual
curiosity. The Renaissance was a highly exploratory period of time, made
easier with the invention of the compass and the printing press, which allowed
for widespread distribution of knowledge. This infectious spirit manifested itself throughout the arts, first shown by greats such as Shakespeare and Michelangelo before influencing sacred and secular composers of the period.
The Renaissance rebirth directly influenced compositions of the era, developing
new musical styles and encouraging creativity among artists.
Composers continued to mold older sacred forms such as the motet
and mass, while experimenting with newer secular forms bringing about
national trends such as the French chanson and the ltalian madrigal.
Smoother, flowing polyphonic lines were characteristic of the Renaissance period, in which imitative counterpoint was written in four or more vocal parts or groups of like-sounding instruments called consorts. The invention of the printing press
eased the spread of instrumental music for amateur musicians, encouraging composers to create dance music to be played by a larger variety of instruments, including the lute, which was the favorite choice in domestic music-making. The popularity of instrumental music led to the origination of many instruments during the Renaissance period, some surviving to the present day. By the late 16th century, composers were developing a trend towards extremely complex and chromatic works, closing the Renaissance era and preparing Europe for transition into the Baroque period.