This work for two pianos was first performed in 1898 (5 March) in Paris, by Ricardo Viñes and Marthe Dron. It consists of two pieces written at different times.
1. Habanera: written in November 1895, and the first of many works in which Ravel gives an evocation of Spain. Some of the manuscripts bear a quotation from Baudelaire's À une dame créole: "Au pays parfumé que le soleil caresse".
Ravel regarded the work as significant in his musical development, and said of it: "J'estime que cette œuvre, avec sa pédale obstinée et ses accords aux multiples appoggiatures, contient en germe plusieurs éléments qui devaient prédominer dans mes compositions ultérieures." (Ravel, ).
Over ten years later, he orchestrated the piece as the third part of his Rapsodie espagnole.
[This piece should not be confused with the Vocalise-étude en forme de habanera (1907), which was itself transcribed for violin and piano under the title Pièce en forme de habanera.]
2. Entres cloches: written in 1897, possibly with the inpiration of Edgar Allan Poe's work behind it, this is a startling and exciting depiction of peals of bells [and not to be confused with La Vallée des cloches (1905) which forms the last part of Miroirs.]
The first performance was a disaster: the two pianists became out of time with each other, and produced even more dissonance than intended.
In October 1926, Ravel was asked by La Musique vivante to allow a second performance of Sites auriculaires in one of their weekly concerts; he declined to support its reappearance after nearly thirty years, and it was not included. (Orenstein, , letter 272).