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How Track Toronto is telling the story of Toronto one song at a time
Dylan Freeman-Grist talks to the trio behind Track Toronto about the inspiration for their art project.

The Mascot, a once cozy cafe nestled in Parkdale on the corner of Queen and Elm Grove avenue sits abandoned.

What was once a celebrated community meeting spot, complete with antique seating and a vintage espresso machine is now padlocked, with sheets of brown paper taped to the windows.

It’s a testament to a city in constant flux, and an urban heritage and cityscape constantly evolving and changing.

Fitting then that it’s where the trio behind Track Toronto, a project dedicated to preserving and sharing some of that fleeting concept of space, met with the Standard to talk about their project.

For a year now, the group, consisting of Chloe Doesburg, Lauren Barhydt and Jonathan Tyrrell have been collecting, cataloguing and displaying fragments of Toronto’s musical culture, all the while exploring its intimate connection with the spaces that facilitate it.

On their website songs set to Toronto’s quirks and history are matched geographically to locations that inspired the lyrics and imaginary in some way.

With a catalogue that ranges from classic Canadian rock such as The Bare Naked Ladies “Old Apartment”, matched to a suspect portion of “Old Danforth”, all the way to current hip-hop juggernaut Drake’s “City is Mine” perched in the bay overlooking the skyline, the site is a one stop snapshot into the deep and rich play list of Toronto’s musical community.

For the trio, a group of three former architecture students, the inspiration for the project came from their love of place. But not just the simple brick and mortar they studied in school.

“When you think about cities and you think about what makes up a city it goes far beyond the buildings themselves and the streets” says Tyrrell.

In June, the trio’s pursuit of an everlasting musical mosaic took a stride outside of the digital realm. The group installed eight yellow signs that carried lyrics from Parkdale’s colourful musical history, showcasing them to passers by as they stepped past the locations that have been immortalized by the community’s past and present performers.

Each sign notes the artist while also supplying a code to help give curious patrons the chance to stream a musical sample on the spot.

“I think the most interesting part for me is just adding this new layer of experience to walking around the city, it’s another reason why you’d want to explore and there is so much going on that you might not necessarily know about” says Doesburg

Although two signs have since been taken down six still remain, including work by Luke Doucet, Tanika Charles and Great Lake Swimmers.

The Parkdale project however is just the tip of the iceberg with the trio setting sights on rolling out more street signs city-wide in the future.

“We’ve been talking about doing a neighbourhood by neighbourhood launch, partly because this is a part-time project for us” added Barhydt. “Not sure exactly what neighbourhood it would be but we chose Parkdale because it had a certain density of songs.”

While the group notes neighbourhoods like Kensington, and Young Street seem to be natural favourites for future expansion due simply to the density of songs sent to them online regarding them, they don’t necessarily want to forget about the thinner pockets and fringes of the city where musical history resonates.

“Some of these areas in the peripheries which really do need to call attention too themselves as musical areas, it would be kind of interesting to just have the one sign and see what happens.” adds Tyrrell

Image via Track Toronto website.
Dylan Freeman-Grist is a staff writer for Toronto Standard. Follow him on Twitter

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