Canto implies melody, and the opening consists of a very long melodic line played fast and rhythmically. Very gradually the melody moves away from its single line and becomes more elaborate, accelerating slightly into the Ostinato. Over a constantly moving bass line, jazz-like offbeat chords are tossed about, at first gently, but soon more forcefully as the bass line rises through the orchestra to dominate the orchestral texture. As it does so, the music slows down, and ‘freezes’, to begin the Threnody, or ‘lament’.
Here the music is, as might be expected, rather sombre; to some extent its character is determined by the use, almost throughout, of three bass drums. First there is a high woodwind line above growling trombones, then a slowly rising melody (mainly for strings) over bell sounds and a percussion ostinato. After an elaborate chordal passage for the whole orchestra, the music gathers momentum as whirling textures reach upward only to be brought very much back to earth by the final gesture.
Monody was commissioned by Peter Swan of the Schools Music Association for the Northern Junior Philharmonic Orchestra.