The renaissance period in music (c. 1400-1600) was, as in many other fields of human endeavor, a tremendous outpouring of creativity and spirit after the stifling centuries of the Middle Ages. The Renaissance era of music saw a distinct emphasis on liturgical music and settings, but also saw the beginnings of a shift towards secular work. Examples of the sacred genres composed for during this period include the motet and the mass, while examples of early secular work from this period include the madrigal, villanella, and chanson, as well as the promulgation of "popular" music, as seen in lutists.
Scores and written records of music from this period are more numerous than from the medieval period, but there was not yet a universal method of notation. However, mensural notation, somewhat similar to modern notation, was developed early in this period and replaced pneumatic notation.
Early in the period, composers such as Dufay worked to streamline and simplifify the developments of the late medieval period; techniques such as syncopation were dropped, to emphasize a more flowing type of music. Later on, new rules for reining in the radically complex polyphony of early Renaissance music would be developed, particularly in the mass setting, with the canon becoming a popular device for organizing a contrapuntal composition. Later composers such as Palestrina, working hand-in-hand with the Counter Reformation's dictates for a simpler musical style, would develop an early-Baroque style which featured rich, elaborate harmonies and counterpoint, and began to follow patterns of "consonance" and "dissonance" (at its simplest, harmonies that pleased then clashed according to the aural sensitivities of the time) on a beat-by-beat basis. Palestrina in particular is noted for using "suspension" to accomplish this, a technique later heavily adopted by Baroque composers such as Bach. Before the period ended and the Baroque commenced, madrigals became even more popular and were expanded for up to six distinct voices.
Prominent composers that mark this era are: