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City X

Tuesday, July 01, 2008 - 01:04 AM

Mall Mall (SWANclothing/flickr)

This week, a piece from one of our favorite radio-makers, Jonathan Mitchell. 'City X' is a history of the modern shopping mall through perspectives of people living in a real, yet unnamed, city.

Using a sound rich audio mosaic of observations and ruminations, all scored to Muzak, the universal mall experience comes to life, for better or for worse.

City X was commissioned by Hearing Voices with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.



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Comments [31]

Robert Genta from Garden Grove, CA

Without a doubt this is Springfield IL. Went to Google maps after hearing about the department store on 5th and Washington; spotted Springfield in the middle and figured it was a good starting place, noticed the downtown streets were named after Presidents past, dropped myself on the street and counted 10 stories on the corner of 5th & Washington, and then noticed it was the historic Myers building. Quick search of Myers building in Springfield IL confirms the buildings history matching exactly that of the story, and confirming Springfield as our scene.

Jan. 26 2018 07:25 PM
Springfield Dan

It would be an interesting to revisit City-X. The mall is dying and now the trend is strip malls!

Apr. 03 2014 04:35 PM
Sherri from Springfield IL

The music at 12:08 is the beginning of the song Light My Fire, originally by the Doors.
This is for Cory.

Jan. 17 2014 06:12 PM
sean from Berkeley, California

I design shopping centers (mixed-use, lifestyle centers, etc....) for a living and this is one of the finest things I've experienced in a long time. One of my earliest memories was the construction of the new mall in suburban Ft. Worth, Texas and I immediately tried to build it out of Legos. I would have been 3 or 4yrs old in 1976. I also grew up in my father's independent menswear store longing for "Mall Clothes."

Jul. 31 2013 06:15 PM
John from Madison, WI

I think it is White Oaks Mall in Springfield. It's in central Illinois and has about the right population. It is a multi-level mall with a Bergner's. Also, downtown Springfield does have a Washington and 5th Street, and it would be an ideal place for the old department store referenced.

May. 12 2013 05:16 PM
Mary H

I agree with Matt C - it is Springfield, IL

Jul. 19 2012 12:31 PM

It's 100% Springfield, IL - White Oaks Mall.

Jun. 27 2012 12:16 PM
Sloppy Boggins from Toronto

This is great! This doc encapsulates the various angles of what a mall is to people. Being from a big city that has malls everywhere they are more of a large convenience store but i do recall when people would dress up a little to go to the mall and I'm sure some still do.

And the guy said "gyros" correctly the first time but I'm sure he'd be outnumbered on that at 'the mall'. That, on it's own, says what a mall is to me and why I stay clear of them.

Apr. 03 2012 07:38 AM
Cody Rapai from MI

I'd like to thank my fellow americans for ruining such a great country. Malls are poison to people and cities. They are a product of, and cause sprawl. The second worst human invention relies on human's first, cars to survive, and vice versa. They contribute to green house gas emissions, the distruction of farm land and natural habitate. While some walking occurs in malls they enourage the development of other businesses that require almost no walking to get to: drive throughs, box resturants, big box stores, strip malls. They spring from a system of urban design that creates some of the other horrible american inventions: appartment "parks", sub dividsions, trailer "parks", office "parks" parking structures and the highway system. The only good mall is a dead one, perhaps then we can use its carcass to build something productive.

May. 27 2011 05:38 PM
Rory from Arlington Heights, IL

Can anyone tell me the name of the song at 12:08?

Dec. 04 2010 11:00 PM

Thanks for the information on the music/*that* David McCallum---and a great piece that's making me look forward to the next leg of my commute so I can hear the end! :)

Feb. 23 2010 12:56 PM
Troy F.

The closing cover of "I Can See For Miles" seems to be Lord Sitar. The listing on includes most (if not all) of the music under "Related tracks.

Jun. 17 2009 01:52 PM

Dear Jonathan--

I've been looking all over for a playlist of the music in this documentary. Especially-- who did the Beatles covers with the sitar and all that? So awesome!!


Jan. 14 2009 08:47 AM

I was the female in the piece that debated gyroes, got my fortune read, and missed the parking, I have pretty good authority on this piece. Jonathan did a GREAT job and we had to much fun. I'd love to do another...jonathan?????

Nov. 26 2008 02:09 PM
Ivy McDaniel

I second the love of the music - you should post a complete list, I am dying to get my hands on that cover of "Blue Jay Way" !

Oct. 22 2008 09:51 AM


Aug. 31 2008 09:31 PM

A really great piece, Jonathan. Really enjoyed it. Thanks.

"this is the way that cities live, or die..."

Jul. 16 2008 02:14 PM

Being from Central Illinois, I'm guessing the “You could stand on a phonebook and see Chicago,” is more a comment on the flatness of the area not its geographic location.

Jul. 15 2008 03:23 PM

Nice piece. The biggest thing running through my mine the entire time was "Which City?" I live in the Chicago area, so I am especially curious. They made reference to "You could stand on a phonebook and see Chicago", so I was thinking that it was Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg. Springfield is pretty far for the whole "seeing Chicago" quote...

Jul. 14 2008 01:59 PM

Jonathan -

I never get tired of hearing this piece. Having been there for some of the recordings, I think you did some exceptional editing. Congrats on all the good comments

Jul. 08 2008 12:47 PM

do you have a credit list of those who are in the documentary? i think i recognize one of the voices.

Jul. 08 2008 10:20 AM

Is there an email address where I can contact you about this piece? It's fantastic, by the way.

Jul. 07 2008 06:54 PM

Tracy --

Glad you liked the music!
That arrangement of "Satisfaction" is credited to David McCallum. Apparently, he was (is?) also an actor.

I found this bio of him online.

Jul. 07 2008 11:10 AM

it's springfield. white oaks mall.

Jul. 06 2008 10:45 PM

I grew up in Iowa and in my lifetime saw the same things come to pass as in this marvelous piece. However being familiar with much of Illinois, it's driving me crazy trying to figure out what city this is. WHERE IS IT????

Jul. 06 2008 10:02 AM
Dennis McDonald

Thanks much! This got me to thinking about Facebook related phenomena:

Jul. 05 2008 12:31 PM

Brilliant piece. amazing editing.

Jul. 03 2008 04:40 PM

malls are awful places to work.

Jul. 02 2008 04:25 PM

i know exactly which city this is. i live here. i hate this mall.

Jul. 02 2008 04:01 PM
Tracy Ball

I would love to know a source for all that fantastic Muzak music! Especially the uber-swank cover of "(I can't get no) Satisfaction." Anyone?


Jul. 02 2008 02:57 PM
dot 'maul girl'

Nice. Touched on the fact that a mall is indeed a lot like a casino: a fully controlled experience, where your contact to the outside is carefully mediated. I've lived in NYC for about 15 years, but still go to malls any chance I get - you can take a girl out of a mall, but sadly you can't take the mall out of the girl.

The only thing missing was the "Piercing Pagoda".

Jul. 01 2008 07:55 PM

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