Serge Verstockt was born in 1957 in Braschaat. He was familiar from an early age with the artistic world as both his parents were visual artists. His father, Mark Verstockt, was known as a pioneer in a contemporary form of contructivism. Serge Verstockt was quickly drawn to artistic endeavours. In this he did not follow his parents into the visual arts, but instead chose music. After an initial period of experimentation, during which he was largely self-taught, he received his first music lessons on the organ. At the age fifteen he attended music school for piano lessons. After secondary school, Serge Verstockt attended the Brussels Conservatory, where he studied solphege and sound engineering. In this period he also followed lessons in image and sound editing at the RITS (National institute for the dissemination of theatre and culture). At the age of 18, he complemented his studies on the piano and organ with clarinet lessons. After completing his studies at the Brussels conservatory, he continued his studies on the clarinet at the Royal Music Conservatory in Antwerp with Walter Boeykens. There he earned his first prize for solphege and clarinet. Through Joris Delaet’s SEM (Studio for Experimental Music), he came into contact with techniques of electronic sound manipulation.
From 1983 to 1985 he studied at the ‘Instituut voor Sonologie’ in Utrecht with Gottfried Michael Koenig. Koenig is a pioneer in the field of computer-assisted composition. He introduced Verstockt into formal practices of composition and revealed to him the opportunities offered by computers. These elements were to be of great importance throughout the composer’s subsequent career. Verstockt became a strong defender of the computer-assisted composition. In 1985 he organised the ‘Antwerp Electronic Music Days’. Serge Verstockt taught at the conservatory in Arnhem.
Verstockt has also been active as a performer. He has given concerts of contemporary music, both instrumental and electronic, including concerts with the SEM-ensemble. In the early 1980s there was a lack of professional ensembles interested in performing contemporary music in Belgium. In order to try to meet this demand, he set up the ensemble Champ d’Action in 1988. In 1997, he resigned officially as artistic director, although an intensive collaboration has continued on the artistic level.
He has received composition commissions from ‘Antwerpen, Stad aan de stroom’, IPEM, deSingel, Antwerp 93 and November Music. From 1997 to 1999, Verstockt was ‘junior fellow’ of the KBC Chair for New Music in the department of musicology at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.
Serge Verstockt is a thoroughgoing exponent of modernism. He strongly endorses the new technologies, which he believes will lead to new ways of expression. He has systematically explored the possibilities of the computer. In recent years he has been active with computer graphics and video. His compositions are connected with various branches of the art world and he rejects being categorised solely in terms of the narrow music world. His works can better be understood as general ‘works of art’.
His first works were compositions for tape. These tapes were produced by computers. This procedure differs substantially from the cutting and pasting that was carried out by composers from earlier generations. Verstockt defines the material before starting by means of a computer program designed for the job. The subsequent working out of the piece is carried out completely automatically by the computer. In 1985, Correlation, one of his computer-generated tape compositions, was selected for the International Computermusic Conference in The Hague.
Electronic music offers a wide range of possibilities such as the (de)forming of sounds. During the earliy 1980s he was chiefly occupied with timbre, with sound in and of itself. And yet Verstockt was not completely satisfied with this. Sound man
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