It Must Have Been Dark by Then

[ next showing] ScreenCity 12th – 31st Oct –

It Must Have Been Dark By Then is a book and audio experience that uses a mixture of evocative music, narration and field recording to bring you stories of changing environments, from the swamplands of Louisiana, to empty Latvian villages and the edge of the Tunisian Sahara. Unlike many audio guides, there is no preset route, the software builds a unique map for each person’s experience. It is up to you to choose your own path through the city, connecting the remote to the immediate, the precious to the disappearing.

In January and February 2017 Duncan Speakman travelled with collaborators across three countries on three continents, visiting environments that are experiencing rapid change from human and environmental factors. What he created on his return is somewhere between a travel journal and a poetic reflection on connection, progress and memory. The experience asks the listener to seek out types of locations in their own environment, and once there it offers sounds and stories from remote but related situations. At each location the listener/reader is invited to tie those memories to the place they are in, creating a map of both where they are right now and of places that may not exist in the future.

Concept development and dramaturgy
Tineke De Meyer

Sarah Anderson, Duncan Speakman, Sean McGhee 
and Djamila Skoglund-Voss

Location research and production
Katharina Smets, Sara Zaltash and Elina Ventere

Book design
Krysztoff Dorion

Tom Abba

Application development

Interface design
Tom Metcalfe

Taylor Brothers Bristol



from Duncan

this is what happened

this is now

this is what happens next

circumstance essentially began as a thought experiment. In my years of practice as a solo artist I constantly worked in collaboration with many amazing artists, and became tired of labelling the work primarily with my name. In an attempt to step away from the cult of the individual I began working under the name circumstance in 2010, initially as an umbrella for projects created with my main collaborators at the time, Sarah Anderson and Emilie Grenier.

It was a loose frame, a collective of sorts, and in projects we created around the world we used it to define collaborations with an expanding network of artists. By 2013 Emilie had moved back to Canada, Tom Abba had become a regular collaborator, and pressures of funding possibilities made a formal status necessary. In 2014 Circumstance became a limited company with myself, Sarah and Tom as directors. As we continued to create projects together the increasing pressures of this new structure slowly revealed themselves. Sarah’s extensive work as a independent musician and Tom’s academic research paths meant that I acted as the sole full time director for the company. The original idealism of the nebulous collective was becoming a organisational burden, and our search for better structures for the company had proved fruitless. At the same time two new pathways were opening up.

For a while now we had been experimenting with hybrid physical/digital publications, sometimes as new forms of existing large scale performances we had been making. Alongside this I had found opportunities for new individual development, partly through academic research I am undertaking and partly through independent music production. In some ways I am starting a kind of sabbatical, having been continuously producing for around 15 years it is a moment for me to slow down and reflect a little on what I’ve actually been doing.

Now, after 6 years of creating performances and installations around the world as circumstance (and trying to avoid the obvious pun), a changing situation was appearing on the horizon.

It’s October 2016, and this is what happens now.

circumstance continues, but will now focus on the sale and distribution of self-contained experiences. What we had previously brought to you all around the globe, we now want to be able to offer as something you can own, use and enjoy on your own terms. From book projects such as our recently released Six Conversations, to upcoming mobile apps and music releases, circumstance will essentially become an online store. We will no longer be creating any new performances, installations or sited works under this name.

Sarah, Tom and myself will of course continue to make things, sometimes together, sometimes alone, and working under our own names may lead to new creative approaches and possibilities, and we may of course use the new circumstance to distribute them (it may still be possible to stage some of circumstance’s older existing shows, feel free to get in touch about that).

The details of the next steps are unknown, but we look forward to taking them, and sharing them.

And finally, I wanted to say thank you to all the organisations that have supported, commissioned and befriended the shape circumstance existed in over the last 6 years – Almost Cinema, Anglia Ruskin University, Arnolfini, ArteMov, Arts Council England, Auricle, Barbican, British Council China / Japan / Mexico / New Zealand, CA2M, Calvium, DeBrakkeGrond, Edinburgh Film Festival, Encounters, Forest Fringe, Fuel, FutureCity, Guangzhou 351, Het Nieuw Institute, I4G, InbetweenTime, Kontraste, La Monnaie, MAYK/Mayfest, Microwave Festival, Milton Keynes IF, MOCA Taipei, Museum Of London, No Boundaries, Performance Space Sydney, Pervasive Media Studio, PlayPublik, Rotterdam Film Festival, Saitama Triennale, Salisbury Festival, Semi-Permanent, Serravles, SonicActs, STSpot, Supersonic, Timelab, TimesMuseum, TPAM Tokyo, Vooruit, Watershed, Wellington International Festival, Z33

thanks for reading

still trying to remain invisible

duncan speakman

Six Conversations




Six Conversations is a hand-made limited edition set of books that work in harmony with a custom made mobile application. The digital and print do not just add to each other, they are interdependent, one story told across two platforms. This collection of books invites you to experience stories in a diversity of forms, all taking place somewhere between your ears and your hands. From a simple exchange of words, to illustration, photography and journeys, each of these six pieces offers a different way to be present within the narrative.


The book is available to purchase here 

– Limited first edition of 200 copies

– Risoprinted mixture of 300gsm, 170gsm and 115gsm Munken uncoated paper. FSC and PEFC approved.

– Hand cut and folded

– Lasercut card case

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Created by Tineke De Meyer and Duncan Speakman with contributions from Sarah Anderson, Jessica Macdonald and Simon Moreton.

Risoprinting by Topocopy (Gent)

Software built with Appfurnace

Cases by


Short Films For You




“Book becomes story. Documents from the book unfold, like devotional pictures in a bible: ghosts from the past. I move between the living and the dead. I hover between image and reality . . . Someone has thought this up, someone has made this, just for you” – Pieter Van Bogaert

Short Films For You is a collection of micro-experiences presented as a book with accompanying soundtracks and physical objects.
One experience may find you sitting alone in a cafe while observing a stranger, another may find you examining miniature photographs, another guides the fingers of you and a partner in a dance across the pages of the book. Each ‘story’ attempts to maintain a relationship between the sound in your ears, the place you are, and the object in your hands. The book has an MP3 player embedded inside it, headphones attached. Inside the book are different materials for each of the different experiences. A hand-made wooden box holds the book, headphones and a magnifying glass.

In 2015 a limited new edition of 50 copies was created for sale, each presented in a lasercut card case to replace the original wooden design.

The collection was created at Timelab in collaboration with artists from different disciplines, and the core of each piece was created through an intensive one week process. Tom Abba (UK) brought in a sense of early 20th century gothic literature, Els Viaene (BE) drew on her location sound recording practice. Reinout Hiel (BE) uses photography to create a fixed visual counterpoint on a moving bus journey, Yoko Ishiguro (JP) turned the book into a performance space








Originally developed in residence at Timelab, Ghent




‘Sitting-Still-Moving’ was created for the Young Tram in Guangzhou, was presented as the launch of the UK-China Year Of Cultural Exchange in the South China region.
A music composition for a shifting landscape, combined with a documentary mixture of found sounds and stories from the landscape you pass while travelling on the tram. Controlled by GPS positioning, the sounds and voices resonate with the locations they are heard in, marking out a timeline of the history and reconstruction of the area.

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When There Is Only Us



“it’s the clock on the wall of the observation deck, the one that we tied to home, and it’s the moment when i look at it, and it’s so far ahead of what i know, it’s so far ahead of me”

An intimate sci-fi opera that explores the real and fictional possibilities of terraforming. Like a film without images, fusing transmitted voices, visceral electronics and live strings, it asks what would happen if we could start all over again?

This work channels the city into the theatre, a performer roams the city, their words transmitted back to the venue. In dialogue with another performer, who remains in front of the audience, they describe the world that will be left behind.  The streamed audio transmission also drags the the sound of the outside back in to the venue. Fictions are mapped on to a city that the audience know well, one on to which they can map their own memories. They listen to the sounds of a civilisation, one that at some point they will either have to abandon or save.

This composition rethinks the idea of ‘live cinema soundtracks’. Bringing together a mixture of acoustic string arrangements and electronic processing it creates an intense filmic experience that draws on real and imagined nightmares of the future of our planet.







Originally commissioned by Watershed and Al Cameron as part of BFI’s Sci Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder. Supported by the Arnolfini and Arts Council England.

For this project Circumstance was Sarah Anderson, Jessica Macdonald, Duncan Speakman and Alice Tatton-Brown


A Hollow Body



A Hollow Body is more experience than story. The elements of narrative that do exist are elliptical and fragmentary. What it ultimately achieved for me was to transcend the grand impersonal buildings, these temples of high finance and the cold impersonal plastic bricks we carry in our hands.You might find it frightening or romantic. It might make you excited, sad or angry.It’s a city full of stories, full of connections and full of secrets. In not asking us to solve a puzzle, Circumstance give us the space to explore those connections that are personal to us.” – Exeunt Magazine

A Hollow Body is a cinematic experience for two people in the City of London. An interactive mobile app with specially composed music score and narration guides you and a companion on a journey through the city streets. Commissioned by the Museum of London as part of their Sherlock Holmes exhibition programme, this is not a history walk or tourist guide. Rather you should imagine walking through a film where you are the main characters; the streets, narrow alleys and inhabitants of London acting as your backdrop.

To download the app please visit

[ additional update – music score now available at iTunes, Bandcamp and GooglePlay ]



Written by Tom Abba, Sarah Anderson and Duncan Speakman

Music composed and performed by Sarah Anderson and Duncan Speakman

Additional vocals performed by Djamila Skoglund-Voss

Mobile app developed by Duncan Speakman using Appfurnace

Special thanks to Phil Smith, Emilie Rolland, Tom Melamed, Jo Reid and all who helped to test and develop the walk.

Periphery Songs


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For De Unie Hasselt-Genk, Circumstance developed a quartet of soundwalks, wherein the lives of four Hasselt citizens are weaved together, the form and accent of each individuals voice became the basis for a music composition. The melody of language and music become one and the world around you becomes a film, your eyes a camera. A mixture of reality and fiction creates an intimate portrait of Hasselt, a cinematic soundtrack to the everyday. The four lives you follow in the soundwalks intersect each other in time and place to create a quartet you experience by walking, a document of the lives in the periphery.


Audio extracts



Originally commissioned by Z33 as part of De Unie Hasselt-Genk

For this project Circumstance is represented by Sarah Anderson, Kathy Hinde and Duncan Speakman

Narration – Michel Ilsen, MC Maryjane

Voices – Daryl Phoebe Peeters,Yves Pipers, Eddy Schroyen, Ayten Temel

Lead Researcher – Tiny Devriendt

Dramaturgy and translation – Tineke De Meyer

Print design – Postcard Of A Painting

Installation – Reinout Hiel

Thanks – Manu, Dirk, Rafael, Elisa,Krista, Rik; Z33.

My Voice Untethered



A short series of augmented video works created for La Monnaie / De Munt Opera. The audience is given a tablet with headphones and invited to line up a photograph on the screen with a location around the building. Once it is lined up a video begins to play, so it is as if you are watching in realtime through the camera on the device. A singer appears from inside the building and begins singing an aria, in your ears the sound of the city fades away until you can only hear the singers voice echoing around the empty streets. The sound of their singing defines and highlights the architecture of the city.




Soprano – Amalia Avilán

Mezzo – Kinga Borowska

Kostuums / Costumes – Anita Kars

Camera / Caméra – Simon Van Rompay

Productie / Production – De Munt In samenwerking met/ La Monnaie En collaboration avec Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel

A Folded Path / Of Sleeping Birds

2013 / 2012


“Whether we were experiencing the performance or being the performers became blurred … a smile remained on my face long after the music had stopped. This carefully choreographed meander of the streets made for a bewitching evening, the haunting music a brand new city soundtrack”  Bristol Culture

A Folded Path and Of Sleeping Birds are pedestrian speaker symphonies, soundtracks for cities, carried through the streets by a participating audience, experienced by everyone it passes.

Comprising of 30, custom-built, location sensitive portable loudspeakers each playing a different element of the music Circumstance have composed. One might be playing a voice, another a sweeping violin or glistening electronic tone.

The work creates a stunning and evocative cinematic layer over the city streets.  The audience, divided into groups, takes a different route through the city, coming together at certain points to create moments of harmony and resonance between them.

The GPS position of the speaker causes different sections of the composition to be played, so the structure of the work resonates with the environments it passes through. The speakers are highly directional so the movement of the people within the group changes the acoustic relationship between them, the audience become the orchestra.

This work is available for touring, and we are very open to creating bespoke compositions for different locations.



See the responses from our shows in Bristol here

Presented at Visualise (Cambridge), Kontraste (Krems), NaturalCircuits (Barbican), Auricle (Christchurch), ScreenCity (Stavanger), PlayableCity (Bristol), Microwave (Hong Kong), HetNiuew(Bruges)




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For this project circumstance is represented by Sarah Anderson, Duncan Speakman and Emilie Grenier

Of Sleeping Birds was originally commissioned by Anglia Ruskin University + Futurecity as part of Visualise – a public art programme for Cambridge, UK 2012 Locative audio software : Appfurnace

A Folded Path originally commissioned by Serralves, Porto as part of Serralvesfest 2013