Pulitzer Prize winner for his contemporary classical music piece String Quartet No. 3. His musical style was characterized by linear, chromatic, rhapsodic, and rhythmically irregular techniques.
He attended Los Angeles City College, where he first began to compose. He was mentored by Ernst Toch, who urged him to attend the University of California, Los Angeles. At UCLA, he was taught by Arnold Schoenberg. He won the George Ladd Prix de Paris in 1942 at the University of California, Berkeley.
He taught music at Harvard University from 1965 to 1989 where he educated several people who would later become highly influential.
He married the singer Gertrude Shoenberg in 1949.
He went to New York after World War II where he studied music with Roger Sessions.