Stravinsky completed his Three Pieces for string quartet in 1914, though they were not published until 1922. In the 1920s these pieces were not well received by critics, who were unable make sense of this fragmentary, seemingly incoherent music. Though they bear no titles, tempi, or expression markings, the pieces are actually character pieces of a sort. As musicologist Eric White notes, Stravinsky intended them as studies in "popular, fantastic, and liturgical moods." The music is difficult to play, as Stravinsky's score calls for some extreme effects from the players; the rhythmic vivacity and a certain disjunctness add a further element of challenge.
Stravinsky included orchestrations of the Three Pieces as part of the Four Studies for orchestra (ca. 1929), adding the titles "Dance," "Eccentric," and "Canticle." Further, Stravinsky used parts of the Three Pieces as themes or motives in other works, including the Symphonies of Wind Instruments (1920), the Symphony of Psalms (1930), and the Symphony in C (1939-1940).