Josquin Desprez (1440-1521) was a master of the Renaissance motet (he wrote over 100). His style would epitomize the Renaissance taste for naturalness without "affectations." A purity of sound and a pious humanism comes through in his a cappella works. His Ave Maria is just one of many works of the time dedicated to Marian worship. This one, like most, was written in four parts and depending on the choral resources would be sung by as few as four performers.

John Farmer (16th century) was one of the most noted English madrigal composers. Fast, fleeting, and light... his style is typical of the English approach to the genre. Fair Phyllis is a light-hearted poem which allows Farmer to playfully combine the polyphonic texture into a series of engaging points of imitation. Listen closely and the innocent text turns out to be less-so once all four parts get involved.

Fair Phyllis I saw sitting all along,
Feeding her flock near to the mountainside.
The shepherds knew not whither she was gone,
But after her lover Amyntas hied.
Up and down he wandered, whilst she was missing;
When he found her, o, then they fell a-kissing.

Jacob Arcadelt (1505-1560) was for a time the head of the Pope's chapel, though this didn't stop him from writing madrigals. His madrigals are like many in the Italian tradition with sentimental or erotic subjects supported by complex polyphony and rich harmony. His madrigals would have been sung in all types of courtly settings (not unlike the gathering Castiglione describes in The Courtier). Between 1530 and 1600 over two thousand collections of madrigals were published, Arcadelt's work being among them.

The sweet white swan dies while singing,
And I while weeping reach the end of my life.
What a strange and different fate,
For he dies comfortless,
While I die a blissful death,
A death which
Fills me with joy and desire.
If I feel no other pain than this in dying,
I should be content to die a thousands deaths a day.