Music psychology has become increasingly popular in music research given the ability of music to evoke strong emotions. However, there are not many studies that have investigated the mechanisms that induce these emotions. One of the characteristics of recognized composers in Western Art Music is their ability to manipulate musical devices in a way that will evoke an emotional state within the listener. This study looks into theories and perspectives regarding the influence of music upon emotions (such as the Doctrine of ethos) while analyzing certain musical structural features and their impact on emotional expression. By comparing musical works and theories from different periods it is possible to say that although each period focuses on specific compositional styles, composers employed similar musical features or devices in order to convey a certain emotion. Musical structural features analyzed included the suprasegmental and segmental. The suprasegmental features consist of foundational musical structures such as melody, rhythm, and tempo. Segmental features comprise the acoustic structures such as pitch, duration, and amplitude. Musical features such as tempo, rhythm, mode, melody, and dynamics are considered the primary elements when depicting or conveying an emotion. Tempo is found to be the most important element among all the musical structural features that affects emotional expression, followed by mode and melody in Western Art Music. This study culminated in a one-hour piano and organ recital performed on May 3rd, 2017, which comprised pieces from Baroque, Classicism, Romantic, and Impressionism.

Semester/Year of Award

Spring 2017


Richard A. Crosby

Department/Professional Affiliation


Access Options

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Scholars