Serge was born in Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris, the son of composer Aleksandr Nikolayevich Tcherepnin and grandson of composer Nikolai Nikolayevich Tcherepnin.
His mother was Chinese pianist Lee Hsien Ming.
He had his first instruction in harmony with Nadia Boulanger and studied from 1958 to 1963 at Harvard University with Leon Kirchner and Billy Jim Layton.
He became a naturalized American citizen in 1960.
In 1961 he studied at the Darmstadt Vacation Courses with Luigi Nono.
He then studied in Europe with Pierre Boulez, Herbert Eimert, and Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Between 1966 and 1968 he worked at the studio for electronic music of the Cologne Hochschule für Musik.
From 1968 to 1970 he participated in the Intermedia Program at New York University (Palmer and Schrader 2001).
Starting in 1970 he taught composition and electronic music at the School of Music-California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California where in 1973 he created The People's Synthesizer.
He has been involved with the development of synthesizers such as the Serge Modular, manufactured by his own company Serge Modular Music Systems, founded in 1974, as well as TONTO.
After closing his company Serge Modular Music Systems in 1986 he returned to France.
He has composed works for tape and electronic instruments, multimedia works, chamber music, a Kaddish for speakers and
chamber ensemble (1962, on a text of Allen Ginsberg) as well as pieces for saxophone and for piano.
His brother Ivan Aleksandrovich Tcherepnin was also a well-known composer, as are two of Ivan’s sons, Stefan (born 1977) and Sergeï (born 1981).