An ancient apparatus, it has universally spiritual connotations as a call to prayer, a summoning of the gods, a funeral rite. Gongs come in all sizes, but tam-tam usually refers to very large ones, frequently of Asian manufacture, with an indefinite pitch and a mind of their own. Once a gong is hit, the sound cannot be controlled. In practice, orchestral composers use the gong for evoking Asian ambience or simple majesty. Like the cymbal, the gong is always noticed.
Tam-tam is the European name for gong (the only percussion instrument with the same name in Italian, French and German).
Did you know?
The first orchestral role for the tam-tam was in Rossini's opera Armida in 1817.