Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix was the fourth studio album by French four-piece rock band Phoenix. It was produced by Philippe Zdar, one half of French house duo Cassius. Frontman Thomas Mars explained to The Independent June 5, 2009 that the strong-willed Zdar was a good choice: "He's such a strong personality that there's no in-between with him," he said. "We can only really work with someone who is going to tell us honestly what's working and what isn't. You can't play it to a friend, as they always say they like it. We needed someone like him to stop us from wasting too much time in the studio."
Mars told The Independent that this ambient epic was inspired by minimalist American composer Steve Reich's 1970 work "Drumming." The band wanted to compose a 45-minute-long track, akin to Reich's, but were discouraged from doing so by Zdar.
Mars explained to the Washington DC free newspaper Express that the inspiration for this song came during a car journey. He said: "It was driving from Versailles off to Beirut where we went to finish the album. We were driving in the car and we had this experience where the lights and sound were giving a rhythm to the song and road, and we wanted to create something that was both epic and almost hypnotic, but very minimalistic. Our instruments are very hybrid; the guitar [is] be very simplistic."
According to Q magazine, for Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the band initially took up residence in a New York hotel - in homage to Francois Truffaut who used to write his films in hotels - but found the environment uninspiring. Next they rented the apartment of the 19th century painter Theodore Gericault, where the light was beautiful but the atmosphere not quite right. Then they decanted to a houseboat below the Eiffel Tower, which was a disaster as they all were seasick.
Finally, the band, now broke, retired to the home studio of their friend, Philippe Zadar, which cost nothing to lose. The sum total of music salvaged from the hotel, apartment and houseboat sessions was 10 seconds of this song.