Consort music is a generic term for any music performed using a variety of instruments. Most such performances were ad hoc affairs, where musicians performed together using instrumental combinations that made sense to them.
In England a particular type of consort became popular in the late 16th century. Queen Elizabeth supposedly heard six musicians playing and referred to their ensemble as the 'exquisite six.' Overnight that combination became a hit.
The exquisite six consisted of a lute, recorder or flute, cittern, bandora (a bass cittern), treble viol, and bass viol. A musical sensation, it spurred the publishing of several musical books arranged for this combination, most notably that published by Thomas Morley in 1599.