150417 Dundas - matthew piers robertson • photography writing creative toronto

The sound of Toronto is changing.

The streetcars that I've known all my life are being replaced. Slowly, but still. The new streetcars sound completely different, with quieter traction motors, electronic gongs, and wheels that barely rattle at all. Clean, efficient, modern… but I've lived within the sound of the 'old' streetcars for half my life. They're part of the downtown soundscape, and I will miss them when they're gone.

I'm going to assume that it's not weird that I have favourite places in the city for sound. The stretch of Dundas street in front of the Art Gallery of Ontario is one that I always enjoy, with great acoustics and heavy traffic along this narrow roadway. The streetcars scrape their archaic trolley poles as they pass under a section insulator, and somehow manage to pick up a decent amount of speed as they run between Beverley and McCaul. There's a neat little cafe in the background of some of these photos, and it has one of the few patios that I like to sit out on during the warmer months.


This audio is put together with a technique I haven't used before. I normally create shorter and more intense recordings by cutting down and layering a single long run, or I'll overlay multiple recordings taken from different perspectives. This time I ran two recorders from similar positions, and synced the results to create a layered perspective that isn't a composite.

My Sony D50 was held on a Gorillapod Focus, clinging to a pole eight feet above the pavement and right up against traffic. This provides the dominant audio. My Sony M10 was recording through a pair of omni microphones that were clipped to different ends of my gear bag, which was resting beside me as I sat on the steps of the Art Gallery of Ontario. This let me choose how much of the sidewalk ambience to mix in, which provides a little extra richness to the final track.

Recording the streetcars along this stretch has been a goal of mine for almost a year. This clip is just ninety seconds out of twenty minutes, and there's another recording from Dundas and McCaul that should also produce some good results. I know it's mundane, but it's something that I enjoy, and the city is changing so quickly.


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