We investigated the effects of formal characteristics (musical phrase structure) and nonverbal vocal gestures (gasps characteristic of crying) on affective and coherence responses to Russian laments by listeners who were familiar or unfamiliar with Russian village music. Laments were presented in semantically compatible or incompatible phrase orders with gasps present or absent. Listeners rated laments on an affective response scale (sad/happy) and a musical coherence scale (phrases follow well/phrases follow poorly). All listeners judged laments as sadder when gasps were present than absent, but effects of phrase order on affective responses were dependent on listeners' musical background. Listeners familiar with Russian laments judged all excerpts as coherent, but listeners unfamiliar with laments judged the excerpts as less coherent when gasps were present than absent. Listeners' emotional and cognitive responses to music were affected by both culture-transcendent factors (gasps characteristic of crying) and culture-specific factors (phrase structure).