Dublin in the early eighteenth century was witness to a healthy culture of musical and cultural exchange with London. This manifested in the mobility of both people and musical documents between the two cities. Many continental European musicians who visited London extended their journeys to include Dublin, with some of these individuals opting to remain in the Irish capital. Indeed, two of the earliest Masters of the Irish State Musick hailed from outside Ireland; Johann Sigismund Cousser held the position from 1716, succeeded by Matthew Dubourg in 1727.
It is well known that Cousser and Dubourg were responsible for composing the series of birthday odes (or serenatas, in Cousser’s case) for Dublin. These works show predominantly Italian influences. In this regard they followed modern trends and provided the Dublin court with works considered to be fashionable among the ruling classes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is no evi- dence of the influence of Irish traditional music in these works.
However, there is evidence that both composers engaged with the traditional Irish music that surrounded their everyday lives in Dublin: the music of the streets, taverns, and coffee houses. This paper looks at the transcriptions of two traditional Irish songs that survive in Cousser’s and Dubourg’s autograph manuscripts. It questions the composers’ engagement with these songs and asks what role they played in establishing and crossing borders of tradition and borders of musical style. It will also ask what such an engagement meant for these foreign musicians, who crossed multiple borders of identity in their ori- gins, status, and roles.