Harmonics, as in multiple of a fundamental frequency, sound good to our ears. A few examples:
- Octaves, i.e. doubling the frequency. We assimilates pitches separated by octaves to a same pitch class. The octave of a B♭ still is a B♭ ; the octave of a G still is a G.
- Choosing the right temperament to preserve as many perfect fifths (multiplying the frequency by 3) without throwing the third away (multiplying the frequency by 5) as possible is an endless debate.
- We try to avoid inharmonicity in most instruments, i.e., we want partials to be as close to harmonics as possible.
This is probably the most basic fact I acknowledge when I’m thinking about music. But it also is a fact I’ve always taken for granted. If I ever were asked to justify that fact, I couldn’t really.
What is the underlying reason why harmonics sound good?
My best guess would be “there probably is a physiological reason”. After all, simple oscillating systems often are quite harmonics, and our auditory sensors could very well be. Or maybe it is cultural: most simple, readily available oscillating systems are quite harmonics, thus even the first instruments must have been. The voice, I think, is too.
Does anyone have any insight on the question?