"Since the days of the ancient Greeks, scientists have wondered why the ear prefers harmony. Now, scientists suggest that the reason may go deeper than an aversion to the way clashing notes abrade auditory nerves; instead, it may lie in the very structure of the ear and brain, which are designed to respond to the elegantly spaced structure of a harmonious sound. (...) If the chord is harmonic, or “consonant,” the notes are spaced neatly enough so that the individual fibers of the auditory nerve carry specific frequencies to the brain. By perceiving both the parts and the harmonious whole, the brain responds to what scientists call harmonicity. (...)
“Beating is the textbook explanation for why people don’t like dissonance, so our study is the first real evidence that goes against this assumption” (...)“It suggests that consonance rests on the perception of harmonicity, and that, when questioning the innate nature of these preferences, one should study harmonicity and not beating.” (...)
“Sensitivity to harmonicity is important in everyday life, not just in music,” he notes. For example, the ability to detect harmonic components of sound allows people to identify different vowel sounds, and to concentrate on one conversation in a noisy crowd."