No, there’s no point really in even trying to understand MALLSOFT or rather how it became a thing and why it’s so… compelling. It’s not quite that it’s mall or elevator music (though it is), but a fading memory of elevator and mall music. It’s not about where we are, but where we’ve been at some point in the past, before… Well, mall’s were something we used to do, and to be fair some people still do, but it’s not quite the novelty that it used to be. The Captains of Commerce & Industry aren’t building them like they used to, and many of the existing mega-shopping-centers are abandoned or on their way into the past. Blame e-commerce. Blame the economy. Or blame nobody at all. Call it evolution or devolution. The Mallsoft music that I’ve heard is more an echoing memory mood. It’s not mixed in as bright and present as even the background music that you heard when you were… shopping. It’s just an echo. It’s echoing in a liminal space in your head paying tribute to the now liminal spaces you’ve been, as they transition from our cultural centers (read a lot of irony into that) to archaeological rubble. I’ve heard that out in the middle of the country there are countless shopping malls just sitting empty and unused. So strange… someone thought they would be their fortunes. Oops.
Growing up in the Hudson Valley, it was a big deal when a new mall opened. It meant new stores, new things we only really ever saw on TV or in catalogues, new fashions, etc. It was a place to go where previously there was… woods and lakes? That sounds funny. What I wouldn’t give for woods and lakes now! It was a big deal though. No doubt the opening of a new mall made it feel like all of a sudden we were more connected to the outside world and to the future that everyone else was experiencing on television. It doesn’t seem that it took more than a generation for the experience to grow stale. The people in the land of malls may not have the words in place for it now but perhaps it’s connected them to the same sense of disillusionment that the people in the cities and suburbs knew already. Not that the city people were more enlightened. They were just the first to get… not bored, but maybe burned out. There was that time though that you’d see a mall being developed and it was a harbinger of a glistening future, and not the end of small towns and communities.
So it’s not nostalgia for the malls, really. It’s nostalgia for a dream of a glistening future, and in that sense hauntological. Not the Space Age vibe of Sovietwave, but of it’s American counterpart… and that sounds especially weird. One side of the world dreamt of space, and the other dreamt of shopping. I jest though. It’s not dreams of shopping. It’s dreams of comfort and convenience and not wanting for anything. It was all right there in a bright expanse anchored on one end by a super department store and the other side by a sprawling supermarket.
And not for nothing, we were warned even then of how empty and pointless it all was. That we were losing something of ourselves as we rushed off in our stationwagons to be a part of this new thing. Still, I realize as I write this that I do miss that strange, if illusory sense of newness and progress as manifested in tangible things… concrete, buildings, stores full of shelves and racks filled with items I’d never touched, let alone bought.
The music echoes in places with feelings I’d forgotten. That’s what Mallsoft does? But why should people much younger than myself know those feelings? That remains to be seen, Maybe for the same reason that people like movies from before they were born? I don’t know. This mix is a trip though. It’s a trip that it opens with a Muzak version of Janis Ian’s At Seventeen. I’m pretty sure I spent much of my seventeenth year a moody, lonely, lovestruck, awkward teenager traipsing through shopping malls.
When was the last time I felt that sense of electric, neon bright newness? Maybe when I unpacked and set up my first home computer? I remember that feeling that I was connecting with the future of things, now the Internet of Things. The novelty is rather gone there too. Unpacking my most recent computer purchase felt pretty much the same as getting a new set of screwdrivers. It was great though… thumbing through a paper catalogue and calling the toll-free number and walking through the purchase… waiting for the shipment… unpacking the boxes and the hours of set-up and finally the bright, digital voice.
You’ve got mail!