Classical music, which mostly came out of Europe, was nonetheless enriched from its earliest days by instruments and ideas from other places.
Percussion came largely from the Middle East, and as late as Brahms' day, the late 1800s, a century after the introduction of drums to concert music, the use of triangle in a symphony was described, and sometimes derided, as "Turkish effects."
The search for unique sounds led Tchaikovsky, in 1892, to have a newly-invented celesta shipped to St. Petersburg in secret. Russian audiences never heard one before the premiere of "The Nutcracker," with its "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy." The celesta became a favorite tinkly sound for many composers, used in quiet symphonic passages by Mahler, Bartok, Honegger, Prokofiev and Shostakovich, and harnessed to help produce a telegraph motto in "Mercury" when Holst wrote "The Planets."
In the early 1900s, classical composers eagerly adopted ideas from jazz, itself an African American music that embraced instruments and ideas from European music. When jazz was then mined for ideas by Satie, Milhaud, Gershwin, Copland and others, it created not a feedback loop but a multiplicity of new kinds of music, an increasingly busy two-way street on which Duke Ellington jazzed up the Nutcracker while Bernstein composed "Prelude, Fugue and Riffs."
One outgrowth of this intermingling was more use of xylophone and vibraphone in concert music. These mallet instruments were already well-known in jazz, notably with the use of vibes in the Benny Goodman Sextet and the Modern Jazz Quartet. Because jazz is improvised night after night by small bands of musicians - even big bands are smaller than symphony orchestras - if you have someone playing vibes, you make music with vibes night after night - as with Martin Denny, and the current Waitiki Seven.
A world's fair in Paris in the late 1800s brought Asian music to Europeans, affecting Debussy and others - and inspiring Gilbert & Sullivan to do "The Mikado," by the way - while Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov and the lesser-known French composer Jean Cras brought Asian and other sounds back in the brains from global naval tours.
Two American composers of the middle 20th century were much influenced by non-European musics but stuck for the most part to Western instruments, with the result that both produced music that sounds like something entirely new. One was Alan Hovhaness, a Boston area native who celebrated his ethnic Armenian heritage in much of his music, and the other was Lou Harrison, who simply liked the sound of an Indonesian gamelan orchestra. Both would then write music replete with bells, celesta, glockenspiel, or any other tinkly instruments they had available to them. Lou Harrison's excellent ballet music "Solstice" is scored for a chamber ensemble that includes both celesta and tack piano.
Tuned percussion and mallet instruments thus came from multiple sources to enrich classical music from Haydn's day to our own. This week on my public radio show, I'll sample most of the composers I've mentioned here, as well as others such as Roy Harris, who liked using a symphonic voice he called his "bell orchestra" - celesta, piano, chimes - and Steve Reich, one of whose early works was "Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ," who more lately has composed "Nagoya Marimbas."
I also found one of the earliest vibraphone solos in all jazz, played by a drummer.
Howard's Day Off airs live 5am-7am Saturdays on KHPR Honolulu, KKUA Wailuku and KANO Hilo as well as streaming on http://www.hawaiipublicradio.org . Max Cacas of Washington D.C. created the Howard's Day Off Listener Appreciation Society on Facebook, where all of these Music Posts can be found. Dicus blogs daily on other topics on http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com .