The gamelan has been appreciated by several western composers of classical music, most famously Claude Debussy who heard a Javanese gamelan play at the Paris Exposition of 1889 (World's Fair). (The gamelan Debussy heard was in the slendro scale and was played by Central Javanese musicians.) Despite his enthusiasm, direct citations of gamelan scales, melodies, rhythms, or ensemble textures have not been located in any of Debussy's own compositions. However, the equal-tempered whole tone scale appears in his music of this time and afterward, and a Javanese gamelan-like heterophonic texture is emulated on occasion, particularly in "Pagodes," from Estampes (solo piano, 1903), in which the great gong's cyclic punctuation is symbolized by a prominent perfect fifth.
Direct homages to gamelan music are to be found in works for western instruments by Béla Bartók, Francis Poulenc, Olivier Messiaen, Colin McPhee, Benjamin Britten, Pat Metheny, and Steve Reich. In more recent times, American composers such as Barbara Benary, Philip Glass, Lou Harrison, Dennis Murphy, Loren Nerell, Michael Tenzer, Evan Ziporyn, Daniel James Wolf and Jody Diamond as well as Australian composers such as Peter Sculthorpe, Andrew Schultz and Ross Edwards have written several works with parts for gamelan instruments or full gamelan ensembles. I Nyoman Windha is among contemporary Indonesian composers that have written compositions using western instruments along with Gamelan. American folk guitarist John Fahey included elements of gamelan in many of his late-60s sound collages, and again in his 1997 collaboration with Cul de Sac, The Epiphany of Glenn Jones. The experimental art-rock band King Crimson, while not using gamelan instruments, used interlocking rhythmic paired guitars that were influenced by gamelan. Experimental pop groups The Residents, Mouse on Mars, His Name Is Alive, Xiu Xiu, Macha and the Sun City Girls have used gamelan percussion. The gamelan has also been used by British multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield at least three times, "Woodhenge" (1979), "The Wind Chimes (Part II)" (1987) and "Nightshade" (2005).
Recently, many Americans were first introduced to the sounds of gamelan by the popular anime film Akira. Gamelan elements are used in this film to punctuate several exciting fight scenes, as well as to symbolize the emerging psychic powers of the tragic hero, Tetsuo. The gamelan in the film's score was performed by the members of the Japanese musical collective Geinoh Yamashirogumi. Gamelan and kecak are also used in the soundtrack to the video game Secret of Mana. The musical soundtrack for the Sci Fi Channel series Battlestar Galactica features extensive use of the gamelan, particularly in the 3rd season.