- In “Living with Music”, Ralph Ellison describes music as a way to relax and avoid listening to all the noises around him. At the beginning of the passage, Ellison lives in an apartment in New York City, where it’s extremely noisy because on his right side, there’s a restaurant that plays music loud through a jukebox, and on his left side, there’s a man who blasts music every morning, causing Ellison’s typewriter to move. In addition, he describes how arguing and fighting would occasionally break out, and there would be people being drunk almost all the time. Overall, Ellison using music affects his living experience because it’s a way to escape from all of the chaos going on in his neighborhood.
- When Ellison said, “In those days it was either live with music or die with noise”, he means that you either enjoy listening to the sounds that you like, like music, or don’t enjoy listening to sounds at all, labeling it as noise.
- The comparison between Ellison’s essay and Schafer’s “The Soundscape” shows how Ellison experienced a soundmark. In “The Soundscape”, Schafer established that the term, soundmark, is a landmark where sound possesses unique qualities by those living there. This can be seen in “Living with Music” when the singer above his ceiling gave him memories of his childhood. When Ellison was a kid, he practiced the trumpet, causing noise and disruption to all of those around him. So overall, Ellison hearing the singer above him reminded him of the time when he caused noise just by practicing a musical instrument.
Brandon, you’ve answered these questions pretty well. You might want to think a bit more about #2. For instance, another way to understand what Ellison is saying is that our enjoyment or suffering–as New Yorkers who live amongst many other people–lies in how we define what constitutes “noise” and what constitutes “music.”