Definition and background:
(kettle drums) Kettle drums are pitched instruments that are considered a part of the melodic percussion family. They are very large drums made of copper or brass, most often used in orchestras and symphonies. These drums have a foot pedal that is attached to the head mechanism. When the foot pedal is depressed, the kettle drums make a unique, "boing" type of sound. Also spelled "timpani".
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary