Greer and team studied how music influences humans emotionally. They report that “Musical features related to dynamics [loudness], register, rhythm, and harmony were found to be particularly helpful in predicting these human [emotional] reactions.” In other words, particular aspects of music influence how we think and behave in certain ways. Changes in rhythm, loudness, timbre, and the instruments in use (for example, the introduction of a new one), made emotional responses more significant, particularly when the new condition was a significant contrast with the original one. For example, changes in volume make a piece more emotionally powerful. Also, it seems that the more instruments in use, the stronger the emotional response to music heard. Volunteers listed to three pieces of unfamiliar music without lyrics and physiological and other data were collected.
Timothy Greer, Benjamin Ma, Matthew Sachs, Assal Habibi, and Shrikanth Narayanan. 2019. “A Multimodal View Into Music’s Effect on Human Neural, Physiological, and Emotional Experience. Proceedings of the 27thACM International Conference on Multimedia. Nice, France, October 21-25, pp. 167-175, doi: 10.1145/3343031.3350867