The tonality of the piece is A flat mixolydian. The first section is in three-part counterpoint; the lower voice parts introduce notes which contradict the modal basis of the melody. The harmonic idiom is that of West European twentieth century style, but quite free from Schoenberg's repetitive use of thematic material. The middle section is built up from rapid and contrasting rhythmic figures, developed almost exclusively from seconds and fourths. In the coda section a recapitulation of the opening appears above a tonic pedal.
The title is derived from the feeling expressed of deep regret that a particular course of action had to be consciously abandoned.