Edinburgh Research Explorer

Dr Elaine Kelly

Senior Lecturer

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Willingness to take Ph.D. students: Yes

Topics relating to music in 19th and 20th-century Germany; the Cold War; music historiography; reception history; and music and Marxist aesthetics.


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 Opera Quarterly, Kritika:Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, Nineteenth-Century Music, Music & Letters, and the Journal of the American Musicological Society.

Elaine is currently working on two related projects that consider the global contexts of the German Democratic Republic. The first of these examines the role that musical diplomacy played in East German foreign policy, exploring how the state used elite ensembles and musical "experts" to counter West German isolationist policies, and to develop alliances with non-aligned states in the developing world. The second project focuses on the construct of international solidarity, and looks at how music mediated the developing world for GDR citizens.

Elaine has been head of the Reid School of Music since January 2017. She will serve as a vice-president of the Royal Musical Association from 2019-23, and as co-editor of the Journal of Musicology from January 2019.

Highlighted research outputs

  1. Art as Utopia: Parsifal and the East German Left

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Reflective nostalgia and diasporic memory: Composing East Germany after 1989

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

  3. Imagining Richard Wagner: The Janus Head of a Divided Nation

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Research activities & awards

  1. GDR Today IV

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference

  2. NEH Summer Institute: Culture in the Cold War

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in workshop, seminar, course

View all (32) »

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