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



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


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.

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

You Who Will In No Other Way



A combination of live performers and a 30 channel sound system creating a cinematic narrative for the Serralves Villa in Porto.

The rooms of the villa became cinematic frames for a composition that drew on notions of determinism, self reflection and the impossibility of progress. Performers created threads of poetic tableaus through the rooms of the villa, each performer represented the same character, always seeing a version of ‘themselves’ in the future of the next room. A multi-channel sound system surrounded these static scenes with resonant tones that hung in the air, removing a sense of time from the spaces. Portable speakers carried by the audience played individual melodic elements of the score that brought a temporality to the experience, articulating and animating the spaces they moved through.






Commissioned as part of Serralves Em Festa 2013, Porto
Performed by Ágata Pinho, Cristiana Rocha, Filipa Fonseca Sphiza, Raquel Rua, Teresa Santos
For this project circumstance was represented by Duncan Speakman and Sarah Anderson

Tomorrow The Ground Forgets You Were Here



“and when there was nothing left we had to create something,
we made words out of water so they could flow between us,
we waited for a boat to come,
hoping these seas we made would not dry out”

The sound of the world becomes the music in this new cinematic experience. The audience are invited to walk and live in streets they know, custom electronics pick up the noise of the city around them and remix it into the soundtrack, harmonising and synchronising the world so it merges with elements of a pre-composed score, the roar of a passing bus becomes a resonant tone that duets with a violin, the conversation of passers by is cut up into a pulsing rhythm. Satellite positioning lets the listeners journey shape the soundtrack and narrative, while bluetooth beacons placed in shops and cafes trigger recordings of their inner monologues, so the audience feels as if they are able to hear fragments of these peoples thoughts.






For this project circumstance was represented by Sarah Anderson, Tim Redfern and Duncan Speakman

Script and project conception : Duncan Speakman

Soundtrack : Sarah Anderson and Duncan Speakman

Platform development audio hardware : Tim Redfern

Voices: Jolijn Antonissen, Tiemen Van Haver, Katrien Vande Perre, Luth Lea Roose, Nathalie Allard, Kevin Trappeniers, Michiel Soete, Ken Verdoot, Cin Windey, Lore Uyttendaele, Grietkin Deroo, Lisbeth Jaspers.

Production assistance, script development : Elisa Demarré

Thanks: Kurt Van Houtte, Eva De Groote, Evi Swinnen, Suzanne Hendrikse, Georgios Patsis (ETRO AV Lab, VUB).

Presented with Vooruit as part of Electrified III:The Responsive City Created in collaboration with timelab and iMinds (Art&D) In the framework of Transdigital supported by the European Fund for Regional Development

Headphones provided by Urban Ears

Respect your elders
In 2006 Duncan made a performance work called ‘sounds from above the ground’, which involved a guided tour of a city where the audience hear a live remix of the surrounding ambient sound. Although very much a live performance it was heavily influenced by the amazing ‘Sonic Interface’ by Akitsugu Maebayashi. We moved onto working with Gumstix as a mobile audio platform after being introduced to them by Zack Settel and Mike Wozniewski while they were working on their 3D audio space systems in Banff. And of course we couldn’t forget to mention the wonderful RjDj which has made this sort of stuff accessible and distributable through iOS (and also made a stack of super useful audio processing tools)

The Haiku Gap




In residence at STSpot Yokohama and Kogane-Cho we explored the application of cinematic techniques in realtime performance in public spaces.

Audience members were guided remotely via telephone by a performer who followed them but remained hidden from sight. The audience’s route was a repeating loop through the Kogane-cho district. On each loop they would encounter a set of performed scenes, but on each repetition the scene would appear to be earlier in time.

Two audience groups were led simultaneously on overlapping routes, so at moments the audience would have the sense of seeing their own journey mirrored, a fleeting glimpse at the end of an alleyway.











For this project Circumstance was represented by Sarah Anderson, Duncan Speakman, Machi Miyahara, Jinya Imai, and Tell-Kaz Dambala

Project supported by British Council Japan and ST Spot

Thanks to Manami Yuasa, Katsuhiro Ohira, Chika Sudo