Composer feeds his creativity with an Antarctic adventure

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The British composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies is to spend a month in the barren wastes of Antarctica to gain inspiration for a new symphony.

Sir Peter, 62, will swap his isolated croft in a valley in Hoy, Orkney, for a freezing research station 6,000 miles away.

He has agreed to compose a sequel to Vaughan Williams' Sinfonia Antarctica, which he first saw performed 44 years ago in Manchester.

The original Williams piece was a development of the score he produced for the 1948 film Scott of the Antarctic, starring Sir John Mills.

The new piece has been commissioned by the British Antarctic Survey to promote the region as an area of special scientific significance.

Salford-born Sir Peter said: "The Antarctic experience will be an encounter with nature, with silence and emptiness such as one can never experience in Europe, even in remotest Scotland.

"I look forward to working on and coming to terms with these new experiences in the symphony I will write.

"The Vaughan Williams is a hard act to follow - I shall do my utmost to write a suitable companion piece."

Sir Peter leaves for Antarcticain December and the symphony will have its world premiere in 2001, at the Royal Festival Hall.

An Antarctic Survey spokesman said: "Temperatures can rise to 5C in summer but it can be a bit windy. He will be flown out to remote research stations to feel the power of silence."

Sir Peter's 38 orchestral works include 11 concertos and five symphonies. And they rarely have conventional inspirations. A recent comedy overture was Mavis in Las Vegas. When the composer was touring the US in 1995, he was registered at the Flamingo Hotel, Las Vegas, as "Mavis" - thanks to a receptionist mishearing his name.

He was tickled by the idea of an alter ego, sightseeing in the gambling capital - "I imagine her all outrageous flounces and hip-jerks, her generous ballgown streaming". Mavis uses a solo violin theme conducted through a sequence of variations, representing nightclub, wedding chapel, Elvis shrine,Liberace Museum and other classic sites of kitsch.