Several generations of Renaissance composers from the region loosely known as the "Low Countries"—i.e. present-day Northern France, Belgium and the Southern Netherlands—are grouped under "Franco-Flemish School", though a teacher-student-relationship between them rarely existed. Most of these musicians were born in the thriving Burgundian provinces of Flanders, Brabant, Hainaut, or Limburg. During periods of political and economic stability, the courts of the Burgundian dukes were a centre of cultural activity in Europe.
Franco-Flemish composers had their origins in ecclesiastical choir schools such as at the cathedrals and collegiate churches of Liège, Tournai, Cambrai, Mons, Antwerp, Bruges, and Gent, although they were famous for working elsewhere. Numerous musicians moved to the European courts in Italy where they were called "I fiamminghi" or Oltremontani ("those from over the Alps") and Spain—notably in the Flemish chapel (capilla flamenca) of the Habsburgs, or to towns in Germany and France, and other parts of Europe—Poland, the Czech lands, Austria, Hungary, England, Sweden, Denmark, Saxony—carrying their styles with them. The exact centres shifted during this time, and by the end of the sixteenth century the focal point of the Western musical world had moved from the Low Countries to Italy.
Following are five groups, or generations, that are sometimes distinguished in the Franco-Flemish/Netherlandish school. Development of this musical style was continuous, and these generations only provide useful reference points.
Composed between 1450 and 1520, these motets were typically written for four voices, with all voices being equal. They often exhibit thick, dark textures, with an extended low range. The most notable composers of this style include Ockeghem and Josquin, whose De profundis clamavi ad te, composed between 1500 and 1521, provides a good example.