In “Living with Music,” Ralph Ellison talks about living in his New York City apartment building and the neighbors he is forced to listen to through the walls of his apartment. Ellison had hated being forced to listen to all the other surroundings of his apartment at first, but then he starts to miss it when his background noise turned into silence. He then appreciated how hearing all these sounds had helped him grow as a musician.
I think “In those days it was either live with music or die with noise…” means that people have completely different brains and feelings towards music. Like a musician can have a certain way they feel about a piece of what they’re hearing vs what a 10 year old might feel about the same noises. You can hear the honking from the streets as an annoying sound or hear it as your next inspiration for your next song.
In Ellison’s essay he writes about how hearing his noisy neighbors through the walls of his apartment building help him appreciate the background noises and helped him grow as a musician, while in episode 2 of Ways of Hearing, they discuss different ways someone might go about not wanting to hear the noises from other people, like putting on some headphones.