1590 in music
- October 16 – Carlo Gesualdo, Italian composer of madrigals, murders his wife and her lover in flagrante delicto.
- Approximate peak year of the late Italian madrigal style, as represented by Gesualdo, Luzzaschi, Monteverdi, Marenzio, Monte and others.
- The serpent is invented by Canon Edmé Guillaume in Auxerre, France – it was a common instrument in Western European churches for the next several hundred years.
- Baldassare Donato becomes maestro di cappella at St. Mark's in Venice, taking over on the death of Gioseffo Zarlino.
- Claudio Monteverdi, Italian composer, is engaged as string player at court of Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga at Mantua.
- Emilio de' Cavalieri, Italian composer, produces Tasso's Aminto, likely with his own music, for the Medici, at Carnival in Florence.
- Giovanni Gabrieli arranges the posthumous publication of works by his uncle Andrea Gabrieli, in Venice.
- Giovanni Croce – Mascarate piacevoli et ridicolose per il carnevale
- Giovanni Gabrieli publishes works in the cori spezzati style, in Venice.
- Hans Leo Hassler – Canzonette (published in Nuremberg)
- Orlande de Lassus, Franco-Flemish composer, publishes Neue teutsche, unnd etliche frantzösische Gesäng, a collection of secular songs for six voices, in Munich
- Claudio Monteverdi – Il secondo libro de madrigali a cinque voci di Claudio Monteverde Cremonese discepolo del Sig.r Ingegneri – (second book of madrigals a5) (published in Venice).
- Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina publishes his fifth book of masses, in Rome.
- Orazio Vecchi publishes a book of motets for 10 voices, in Venice.
- Thomas Watson – The first sett, Of Italian Madrigalls Englished, published in London.
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- July 3 – Lucrezia Orsina Vizzana, singer, organist and composer (d. 1662)
- January 20 – Giambattista Benedetti, Italian scientist and music theorist (born 1530)
- February 4 – Gioseffo Zarlino, Italian music theorist and composer, maestro di cappella at St. Mark's in Venice (born 1517)
- September 20
- probable – Maddalena Casulana, Italian lutenist, singer and composer (born c 1544)