A recent issue of Organised Sound was dedicated entirely to a discussion of ethical issues in composition and the potential of cultural appropriation in electroacoustic music (Andean 2014, Blackburn, 2014, Rennie 2014, amongst others). Within the success of bringing that debate forward, in some senses the discourse is a post-mortem. Composers (myself included) are perhaps more often attempting to justify their choices after recording, and indeed, after composing.

It might be argued that whilst composers working with `outsider' cultures have to answer difficult questions about their own agency, the `insider' composers appropriating sounds common to them escape the call to be more rigorous in understanding why they are recording particular sounds. Perhaps composers should consider the implications of using any field-recorded sounds, particularly for the significance it has to themselves. What does the authorial voice say about the self with appropriated sound? Who is really represented in the piece? How might different audiences hear that in different contexts? Andean (2014: 178) suggests that `the work of art is entirely transactional - a cultural negotiation, with artist and audience as the primary a locus of cultural communication, exchange and interaction, ethics are fully implicated in the very heart of the art work'.

Michael Gallagher presents the audience's role as making rather than receiving meaning in the act of listening. He writes, `it may be helpful to recognise that listening is more ambiguous (in relation to meaning) and more ambivalent (in relation to power) than is commonly supposed' (2014: 43-44). This is not to excuse or downplay an overtly political position any composer could take but does allow for the audience to make their own mind up about the artistic intentions of a sound work.

Aspects of the composers' cultural identity and active agency within the field are certainly an undeniable part of the process of composition. Do these ever come across as part of the finished work? What really constitutes `authorship' over field recordings and the sounds derived from them? Do compositions resulting from field recordings ever question socio-cultural, ethical, moral or political codes of practice within the composition itself? Perhaps the very the notion of a composer becomes counterproductive? Simon Emmerson (2000: 127) reminds us that `often the most interpenetrating multi-cultural exchanges are produced within performing ensembles without a `composer' in sight'.

Back in the field, Voeglin writes that the switch from absence to presence on behalf of the recordist is a move away from authorship, `where we do not seek to own the sounds of this world, to know and to have them, but understand ourselves to be part of its soundscape, not at its centre but simultaneous with it' (2014: 16).

This perhaps signifies a new way forward for thinking about compositions derived from field recordings. The recordist-composer should recognise the active agency they have in the field, but equally that their `finished' work is not quite that - it is unfinished without the agency of a listener. Both roles carry an equal level of responsibility, agency and authorship.

adrian 2015-06-03