• WordNet 3.6
    • n kettledrum a large hemispherical brass or copper percussion instrument with a drumhead that can be tuned by adjusting the tension on it
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
  • Interesting fact: The first percussion instrument introduced to an orchestra was the kettledrums, then called the timpani, in the 1600s.
    • Kettledrum (Mus) A drum made of thin copper in the form of a hemispherical kettle, with parchment stretched over the mouth of it.
    • Kettledrum An informal social party at which a light collation is offered, held in the afternoon or early evening. Cf. Drum n., 4 and 5.
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Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • n kettledrum A musical instrument used in military bands and in orchestras, consisting of a hollow brass hemisphere from 24 to 30 inches in diameter, over which is stretched a head of parchment. It is sounded by blows from a soft-headed, elastic mallet or stick. The pitch of the tone is determined by various devices for adjusting the tension of the head. In orchestral music two or more kettledrums (technically called timpani) are employed, tuned at different pitches, usually at the tonic and the dominant of the piece to be performed. As the pitch may be accurately fixed, kettledrums are much used, in conjunction with other instruments, for emphasizing the rhythm, and for increasing the sonority of the general effect. They are also much used in short solo passages; and various experiments have been made, with extended and elaborate effects, with a large number of drums.
    • n kettledrum A fashionable afternoon entertainment given by a woman chiefly to women. It is less formal than an evening party, and the ladyguests generally wear bonnets. Also drum.
    • kettledrum To drum (on the kettledrum); sound like a kettledrum.
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In literature:

Flags waved, kettledrums beat, fans were flung into my very lap to autograph.
"Rezanov" by Gertrude Atherton
Kumran hearing of this was very angry, for the beating of a kettledrum is a sign of Empire.
"The Adventures of Akbar" by Flora Annie Steel
Johnson marched to kettledrums and trumpets, Gibbon moved to flutes and hautboys.
"Gibbon" by James Cotter Morison
In the deep silence, Simon's heartbeat thundered in his ears like a kettledrum.
"The Saracen: Land of the Infidel" by Robert Shea
The kettledrums rumbled and thundered to a crescendo.
"The Saracen: The Holy War" by Robert Shea
The words "kettledrum" or "afternoon tea" are not to be used, and these cards may be sent by mail, enclosed in a single envelope.
"Social Life" by Maud C. Cooke
Overture for trumpets, horns, tubas and kettledrums.
"Annals of Music in America" by Henry Charles Lahee
That is why, in spite of me, my kettledrum sounded so sad.
"The Chinese Fairy Book" by Various
A sentinel was standing before the gate, and there were numbers of soldiers with kettledrums and trumpets.
"The Green Fairy Book" by Various
These dances of honour are performed to the sound of trumpets and kettledrums.
"Pictures of German Life in the XVth XVIth and XVIIth Centuries, Vol. II." by Gustav Freytag

In poetry:

Double flutes and horns resound
As they dance the idol round;
Jacob's daughters, madly reeling,
Whirl about the golden calf.
Hear them laugh!
Kettledrums and laughter pealing.
"The Golden Calf" by John Hay
Dresses tucked above their knees,
Maids of noblest families,
In the swift dance blindly wheeling,
Circle in their wild career
Round the steer,--
Kettledrums and laughter pealing.
"The Golden Calf" by John Hay
Aaron's self, the guardian gray
Of the faith, at last gives way,
Madness all his senses stealing;
Prances in his high priest's coat
Like a goat,--
Kettledrums and laughter pealing.
"The Golden Calf" by John Hay