She began composing atonal music in 1920–1930, influenced by Alexander Scriabin and others. In the 1940s and 50s, she began documenting and teaching American folk music. During this period she composed the American Fantasia for Orchestra, based on folk tunes.
She wrote music for piano, strings, various chamber forces, and orchestra.
She was the first woman to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship (1930).