Ralph Ellison originally speaks of how music affected his living experience in NYC negatively. He was surround by people on all sides of his apartment that made too much noise for him to concentrate.
I think when he said “In those days it was either live with music or die with noise…” he meant you either created your own sounds to drown out the noise or you spent your time listening to others noise.
Two points of comparison between Ellison’s essay and Krukowski’s Ways of Hearing : Space is about how each author speaks of drowning out the noise. Ellison used his music to drown out the sounds around him while in Ways of Hearing, it speaks of people using headphones now-a-days to drown out the sounds of the city.