Won 1951 Pulitzer Prize for his opera "Giants in the Earth." He also wrote music for film, theatre, ballet, and orchestra.
He served in the Navy as a lieutenant followed by time in Paris studying music with such notables as Nadia Boulanger, Vincent d'Indy, and Ernest Bloch.
He garnered great acclaim for his 1939 folk opera "The Devil and Daniel Webster" and his opera "The Ballad of Baby Doe" from 1956.
His ancestors could be traced back to the first settlers arriving in Long Island.
His work was often compared to that of Aaron Copland's.