Many orchestral works pay homage to the earth’s natural wonders, but Lera Auerbach took the unusual step of deploying an actual piece of the natural environment—a block of ice—as part of the percussion section. In March, the National Symphony Orchestra performed the world premiere of Auerbach’s Arctica at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., joined by the Washington Chorus and Auerbach on piano. Conducted by Teddy Abrams, Arctica included sounds of dripping water and cracking ice, with one percussionist hitting the ice with mallets while standing inside a special enclosure. Auerbach’s piece, inspired by her travels to Svalbard, not far from the North Pole, as well as Greenland and Iceland, was co-commissioned with the National Geographic Society. Auerbach and National Geographic marine ecologist Enric Sala are friends, and Auerbach was familiar with Sala’s work to preserve the last wild places in the ocean. Auerbach wrote the Arctica libretto, inspired by Inuit folklore and language. The NSO concert—part of the Kennedy Center’s Direct Current Festival this spring—included three other nature-inspired works: Mason Bates’s Sea-Blue Circuitry, Sibelius’s The Oceanides, and Dvořák’s In Nature’s Realm.