Skilled composer who was known for writing contemporary music in just intonation. He contributed greatly to microtonal music.
He worked with composer and music theorist Harry Partch, from whom he learned just intonation. He would later expand upon the theories Partch taught him.
He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1959, a National Council on the Arts and the Humanities grant in 1966, and received commissions from the Smithsonian Institution.
His family was living in Macon, Georgia, when he was born.
He encountered such avant-garde musicians as La Monte Young, Iannis Xenakis, and John Cage while teaching composition and theory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign from 1951 until 1986.