But what if you found some natives in the jungle who'd never heard music before? Would they know the difference between the soundtracks of a happy movie scene and a sad one? Yep.
In the same way that we're all programmed to know that babies are cute and spiders are terrible, our brains are also programmed to recognize "sad" and "happy" when it comes to music. The two main chord and scale types are referred to as major and minor. Major chords tend to sound positive and upbeat, while minor chords are spooky and sad. This video shows a pianist playing Beethoven's "Fur Elise," once in A minor (as intended), once in A major. Even though there are only three different notes between the keys, the effect is remarkable. Take a listen.
And here's where it gets weird. Researchers visited a culturally isolated native tribe in Cameroon to see if they had the same perceptions of "happy" and "scary" music as we do. Even though their music was nothing like ours and their civilization had not yet progressed to the Nickelback phase, they identified the emotional core of songs the same way we would. When exposed to piano selections in the major keys, they were more likely to point to pictures of smiling faces; when presented with songs in the minor keys, they were more likely to point to sad or fearful faces.