Incorporated non-Western music into his compositions and wrote for Javanese-style gamelan instruments. He worked as a music critic for the Herald Tribune in the 1940s.
He relocated to San Francisco following high school, where he became acquainted with Cantonese opera, Native American music, Mexican music, classical music, and jazz.
His work was mostly written in just intonation rather than the more popular equal temperament.
His family moved around the San Francisco Bay area quite a bid during his childhood. He lived with his partner Bill Colvig until his death.
His work was heavily influenced by Charles Ives.