Variations on Spell is in two movements, 1. Water Sprite, and 2. Bell Tolls (which has two distinct sections). The work as a whole is a reimagining of Maurice Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit: Trois poèmes pour piano d'après Aloysius Bertrand, which is a suite of pieces for solo piano, written by Ravel in 1908. Ravel’s work has three movements, each based on a poem or fantaisie from the collection Gaspard de la Nuit, fantaisies à la manière de Rembrandt et de Callot completed in 1836 by Aloysius Bertrand. Variations on Spell is a modern day reimagining that takes its inspiration from both Ravel’s work and the poem from which it takes its inspiration.
The first movement, Water Sprite, is inspired by No.1 Ondine, and by the following line in the poem that accompanies the movement: “Each wave is a water sprite who swims in the stream, each stream is a footpath that winds towards my palace, and my palace is a fluid structure, at the bottom of the lake, in a triangle of fire, of earth and of air”. Movement two, Bell Tolls, draws its inspiration from the following line in No.2 Le Gibet: “It is the bell that tolls from the walls of a city, under the horizon, and the corpse of the hanged one that is reddened by the setting sun”. The third section, inspired by the notion of “golden bees,” is a reimagining of No.3 Scarbo, and explores the vivid words: “Oh! how often have I heard and seen him, Scarbo, when at midnight the moon glitters in the sky like a silver shield on an azure banner strewn with golden bees.”