Composer, journalist, photographer, Jacques Bekaert was born in 1940 in Bruges, Belgium. In the early 1960s he attended the analysis and composition classes of Henri Pousseur at the Basel Conservatory. He also worked at the Apelac Studio for Electronic Music in Brussels, where he composed A Summer Day at Stony Point, which was premiered at the Harrogate Festival (UK) in 1969. A composition for live electronics, entitled The Day After, was performed at Mills College in 1970. This work was later released on a recording published by the French experimental poet, Henri Chopin. Another composition, for electric guitar, entitled Pop Corner, was first performed by Philippe Catherine and later by the British group, Gentle Fire, led by Hugh Davies. Bekaert also worked at the Studio for Electronic Music at Brandeis University and at Mills College, where many of his compositions were performed.
In 1972 Bekaert co-founded, with Takehisa Kosugi, the musical group, Transition, which performed in Europe, notably at the ICES Festival in London. He has also performed with the Sonic Arts Union, Philippe Catherine, George Lewis, and John Cage (for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company).
Composing mostly for small ensemble and electronic media, Bekaert's works include, Aranyaprathet, for tape and instruments, created at Arch Street (Berkeley); a solo for piano, The Ghost of Madison, premiered by Rae Imamura, at the Kitchen (New York); and a collection of his works with the overall title, Summer Music 1970, composed while living in John Cage's house in Stony Point, New York.
Of Summer Music, composer and music critic for the Oakland Tribune, Charles Shere, wrote: "On the record the result is a curiously floating kind of sound, freed from the musicians and the composer-like clouds hovering between earth and sky. It sounds improbably but the result is spiritually uplifting--like hearing Bach organ music in church on a spring day when it combines with songbirds outside."
Bekaert has also composed music for two experimental movies by Japanese writer/filmmaker Akiko Iimura (Mon Petit Album and A Late Lunch, later published on record in Europe).
Thomas Buckner premiered A Distant Harmony, a quartet for voice, flute, viola and bass clarinet, in 1993. He also commissioned Bekaert's Orfeo, a suite for voice and seven instruments. The work is partly based on the Orfeo of Monteverdi. A fact reflected by the instrumentation: solo voice and violin; flute, oboe, trumpet, trombone, cello and harpsichord. Bekaert's Orfeo received its first performance in New York in January 1998, with Tom Buckner and Leroy Jenkins as soloists. Orfeo was released by Lovely Music in the late spring of 2000.
As a journalist, Bekaert covered American politics for fifteen years. He also traveled to the Middle East, Portugal and Greece. In 1979 he moved to Bangkok and specialized in Indochinese affairs, traveling often to Vietnam, Cambodia, writing for Le Monde, The Bangkok Post and the Far Eastern Service of the BBC. He has also written several studies on Cambodia for research centers in Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. Two volumes of his Cambodian Diary, Tales of A Divided Nation and A Long Road to Peace, were published in 1997 and 1998 (White Lotus, Bangkok.) The books cover events from 1979 until 1998.
Bekaert's photographs have been shown in Berkeley, Hanoi and Brussels. Transedition, directed by Marc Dachy in Paris has published limited editions of two portfolios: Marcel in Hanoi, with a text by David Behrman, and Left Over, with a text by Robert Ashley. A suite of computer assisted prints, titled After Duchamp, was published in a limited edition by Petra Bungert project with Transedition in 1998. Jacques Bekaert is a member of CounterIntelligence, a New York-based art group. It also includes David Behrman, and video and graphic artist Terri Hanlon. An exhibition of Bekaert's digital prints on watercolor paper, titled WAR, is due at the end of May 2000 at Studio Five Beekman, in New York.
Bekaert is presently a diplomat, the Charge d'Affaires of the Embassy of the Order of Malta in Cambodia. The Order works on the eradication of lebrosy, and runs a specialized hospital in Phnom Penh. the Embassy also provides bi-monthly supplementary feeking and medical care for pregnant women and children detained or living in various Cambodian jails.
When asked in 1979 about his double life as a musician and a journalist, Bekaert replied, "I suppose they're both unsafe, unstable, questioning jobs—composing and reporting. Journalism takes me to places, shows me the world as it is. My music is my wish for the kind of world I'd want to live in. The little peaceful state I dream for everyone, where you can be yourself, and happy, and as collective as possible without giving up total privacy."