The Council of Trent is believed to be the apex of the Counter-Reformation’s influence on Church Music in the 16th century. However, the Council’s pronouncements on music were not the first attempt at reform. The Catholic Church had spoken out against a perceived abuse of music used in the mass before the Council of Trent ever convened to discuss music in 1562. The manipulation of the Credo and using non-liturgical songs was addressed in 1503, secular singing in 1492, and the intelligibility of the test in the delivery of psalmody in 1492.
The delegates at the Council were just a link in the long chain of church clergy who had pushed for a reform of the musical liturgy reaching back as far as 1322. Probably the most extreme move at reform came late in 1562 when, instructed by the legates, Egidio Foscarari bishop of Modena and Gabriele Paleotti began work on reforming cloisters of nuns and their practices involving the liturgy. In fact, the reforms proscribed to the cloisters, which included omitting the use of an organ, prohibiting professional musicians, and banishing polyphonic singing, were much more strict than and of the Council’s edicts and or even to be found in the Palestrina legend.
Fueling the cry for reform from many ecclesial figures was the compositional technique popular in the 15th and 16th centuries of using musical material and even the accompanying texts from other compositions such as motets, madrigals, and chansons. With several voices singing different texts in different languages made any of the text difficult to distinguish from the mixture of words and notes. The parody mass, would then contain melodies (usually the tenor line) and words from songs that could have been, and often were, on sensual subjects.
The musical liturgy of the church was being more and more influenced by secular tunes and styles. The Council of Paris, which met in 1528, as well as the Council of Trent were making attempts to restore the sense of sacredness to the church setting and what was appropriate for the mass. The councils were simply responding to issues of their day.