Elaine studied at Maynooth University and Queen's University Belfast. 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 research is concerned with the global contexts of the GDR. She is working on a monograph that develops a model of how musical diplomacy operated at the peripheries of the Cold War by charting the musical relations that developed between the GDR and various postcolonial countries.
Elaine is co-editor of the Journal of Musicology and a vice president of the Royal Musical Association (2019-23). She was head of the Reid School of Music from 2017-20, and is currently a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellow (2021-24), working on a project entitled: “Musical Diplomacy at the Peripheries: East Germany and the Postcolonial World.”