Elaine studied for a BA in music at Maynooth University in Ireland, and then moved to Queen's University Belfast, where she completed an MA in Twentieth-Century Music and subsequently a PhD with a dissertation on Brahms's involvement with the early music revival.
Her research focuses on the intersections between music, politics, culture, and intellectual history in nineteenth and twentieth-century Germany. She is particularly interested in the German Democratic Republic, and has published extensively on the relationship between culture and politics in the state. She is author of Composing the Canon in the German Democratic Republic: Narratives of Nineteenth-Century Music (Oxford University Press, 2014), editor together with Amy Wlodarski of Art Outside the Lines: New Perspectives on GDR Art Culture (Rodopi, 2011), and editor with Derek B. Scott and Markus Mantere of Confronting the National in the Musical Past (Routledge, 2018). She has published articles in venues such as the Journal of the American Musicological Society, Opera Quarterly, Kritika, Nineteenth-Century Music, Twentieth-Century Music, and Music & Letters. Her current work is concerned with the global contexts of the GDR. She is writing a monograph that explores how the state used musical diplomacy to negotiate political relationships with postcolonial countries.
Elaine has been Head of the Reid School of Music since January 2017. She is co-editor of the Journal of Musicology and a vice-president of the Royal Musical Association (2019-23). In September 2020, she will start a three-year Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship to work on a project entitled: “Musical Diplomacy at the Peripheries: East Germany and the Postcolonial World.”
Elaine offers honours options on Music and State Socialism in the Twentieth Century and Wagner: Music, Philosophy, and Culture, and contributes to various courses on both the BMus and the MMus in Musicology.
My research interests span a number of broad themes including canon reception, music historiography, opera production, and Marxist aesthetics, many of which coalesce in my work on the German Democratic Republic. I have published extensively on the construction and legacy of the GDR's aesthetic culture, and am currently working on two related projects that explore the global contexts of the state. The first of these projects is concerned with the role assigned to musical diplomacy in East German foreign policy. It explores how the GDR used elite ensembles and musical "experts" to assert a presence on the world stage, to counter West German isolationist policies, and to develop alliances in the developing world. The second project looks at how music composed and performed in the name of international solidarity mediated the developing world for GDR citizens, and reflects on how this repertoire, and the discourses surrounding it, exposed the contradictions that existed between the ideology of international solidarity and the colonial and nationalist legacies that were embedded in East German culture.