music: religious experience or background noise?


In an essay about "Music and the Transcendental," the philosopher Roger Scruton, in trying to come to terms with the paradox that music, although an art that unfolds in time, seems to express the "eternal" (or "transcendental"), notes that the musical culture of German Romanticism--thus, of Beethoven in particular--"was a listening culture; ours is a culture of hearing." He goes on to explain that, although "much music is heard" in our culture, "not much now is listened to." 

Sadly, I agree. But I think that audiophiles are an exception. For most people, music is "background"; something not to be paid much direct attention to while one is doing something else. Even dance music fits this model, more or less. But audiophiles tend to sit and listen critically, while doing nothing else.

This is noteworthy, as none of the musicians, composers, or conductors in my social circle are audiophiles. Yet the habit of sitting and listening critically is indispensable to the appreciation of serious music, no?

How about you? Do you have your stereo on all the time, like some people have the TV on all the time, whether or not you're actually paying attention to it? Or do you show music the respect it deserves?

Obviously, I've posed that question tendentiously, and it reveals my own prejudices. Serious listening and appreciating a background ambiance aren't mutually exclusive. But I find that I'm always aware of music when it's playing: in a movie, in a restaurant, in a grocery store, in the car. In fact, there are movies I haven't liked but for the music, and even in movies I'm involved in, if music that I love is used, I pay more attention to it than to the drama on screen. This tendency, I'm convinced, is central to my own audiophilia: because music ranks so high in the panoply of possible sensual stimuli that permeate our environments, I'm particularly finicky about its realistic reproduction.

Is that the case for most of you audiophiles, or is it just me?

snilf
In my younger days I had more free time to listen critically and adhere to the “I’m not gonna listen unless it’s critical listening” mantra. But I’m working and raising a family so I am more apt to have music playing at times that I am unable to critically listen to it, yet still “hear” it. I figure life is short and that if “hearing” the music is all I can do at certain times, then that is better than nothing at all. I go back and catch up on my critical listening as time allows. Not all music is worthy of critical listening anyway. Certain music is/was made as background music to begin with. 
I have a "religious" experience anytime listening to Yes-Close to the Edge(Side1)

 "I get up...I get down"....cue pipe organ. This must be played only on LP on a proper system very loud.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55KY9uZc0Hw
8:10-14:00 very dramatic-tension/release at it's best.
The only religious experience I had with Yes was at the old Arie Crown and the Auditorium.
Now Kaluapapa....shivers.
Vatican, not so much.
Sadly, I agree. But I think that audiophiles are an exception. For most people, music is "background"; something not to be paid much direct attention to while one is doing something else. Even dance music fits this model, more or less. But audiophiles tend to sit and listen critically, while doing nothing else.

This is good, except for the critically listening part. Audiophiles do tend to listen critically a lot, the signs and symptoms are everywhere, and it can be a big problem. Because critical listening is at odds with attentive listening.

Not to be tendentious, but critical listening is actually, you know, critical. Actively seeking faults. Typically, since most audiophiles aren’t all they’re cracked up to be its simple stuff like frequency response. For the more advanced ones its imaging, depth, palpable presence, dynamics, detail, stuff like that. This site is positively infested and overrun with critical listeners. Not a lot of religious let alone musical enjoyment in that. So little in fact we even coined a term audiophilia nervosa for those who cannot simply enjoy music for being obsessed with every little fault real or imagined.

Another sign of lack of deeply attentive listening, the prevalence of streaming. That’s collecting. Streaming is the ultimate absurdity of collecting, letting you live the fantasy of access to literally everything while in reality owning literally nothing. The fact of the matter is listening takes time. Time during which your attention is focused on nothing else. All the hours in all the days from birth to the day you die are nowhere near enough to listen to all of that even if run 24/7/365. There’s more than 24 hours of music recorded in a day. This you are going to listen to? How? Five at a time?

Right. Can’t do it. Can’t sit and pick it all apart either. What I can do is what I do do: get it all nice and warmed up, put on something really good, sit down kill the lights lean back and right about then the needle drops and the religious experience begins.
Can’t speak for the OP, but in my post above, the word “critical” can be replaced with the word “attentive.” Both words mean the same thing in the context of my post above. 
I exult.  Given half a chance I let music carry me away.  I'll happily pick it apart and then let it enchant/assault me as a whole once again.  I'll focus the parts of the listening experience that are most enjoyable in each live performance or recording and try not let the less enjoyable stuff get too much in the way. 
Like a sailor probing the depth of the sea near an island with a cable, those who know to listen music probe the depth of their  soul in the sea of the spirit near the island body....

What is this boat?

It is a wave who sail always solitary, the wave of the imagination.....

This wave is called a "soliton".....
It’s all things to all people.  Animals too. 
It’s all things to all people.  Animals too.   I bet even gets the attention of plant life. 
 A woman`s love,  poetry, mathematic and music  are the  joy of the heart and i pity those who dont know none of this four...

What else is left?

Loving and hugging  trees and made with them and your hands some house like a work of art for a new happy couple....

Navigating the sea in solitary or a desert or a mountain....
Yes and yes. I put music on, almost always streaming, if I plan on engaging in another activity such as work, reading, doing this. I have a stereo system for this. For attentive, critical listening I will put on an LP or CD and be firmly planted in my favorite chair precisely placed in the sweet spot with only an adult beverage as a possible distraction (or perhaps enhancement). I have a hifi system for this. 
I thank the OP for raising the question.  Certain works have always seemed to significant to me to be just abstract sound.  The last movement of Beethoven’s Op.111 Piano Sonata, with those amazing trills, has always made me imagine that one is conversing with the Divine.  And on a more mundane level, I always find myself more interested in a good Film Score than the events depicted on the screen
So... if I have music on and I'm doing something else, I'm being "disrespectful" to the music?  Uh...

I do my best to make time to sit and do nothing but listen.  I usually do every day, most often in the evening when the day is done.  I also like to listen to music while I'm working out, while I'm working, when I'm cleaning house... basically, while I'm living.  It makes life a little bit better.  If that's disrespectful, then yes, I am.