The Mysterious N. Senada (born Nigel Sinatra) (ca. 1907-1993) was a Bavarian composer and music theorist who formulated the Theory of Obscurity and the Theory of Phonetic Organization, and who is perhaps best known for his collaborations with The Delta Nudes and The Residents between 1969 and the late 1970s.
"If the audience wants perfectly played music, let them listen to angels. Human music should stumble along most pitifully." N. SenadaSupposedly born Nigel Sinatra in 1907 in Bavaria, The Mysterious N. Senada was an eccentric music theorist and composer whose original works are little known outside of the context of his collaborations with the American avant-garde group The Residents.
In 1937, Senada premiered his masterpiece, "Pollex Christi", which means either Thumb of Christ or Big Toe of Christ. This work mainly consisted of borrowed pieces from other composers, namely Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 and Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, among others. He also left large holes in the work so that the performers could insert music of their choosing, thus "becoming composers themselves". Senada justified his work with "house" analogies claiming that he did not make the "bricks" but "cemented them together"; he was not the "architect", just the "builder".
N. Senada arrived in San Mateo, California around 1970. Accounts differ regarding the circumstances by which Sinatra came to meet The Residents. According to Matt Groening, Senada was allegedly discovered recording birdsong in the woods of Bavaria in the late 1960s by Philip "Snakefinger" Lithman, and travelled with Lithman to the United States around 1970.
However, it was confirmed by Homer Flynn in 2016 that Senada arrived unannounced on the group's doorstep in 1970 unknown even to Snakefinger, and that his nom de plume "The Mysterious N. Senada" was derived from Lithman mishearing the heavily-accented Sinatra trying to tell the group his name. Senada would love this pseudonym so much that he would adopt it for the rest of his life, and even retrospectively for his works written decades prior to meeting the group.
Following this bizarre initial meeting, Senada almost instantly began collaborating with the group that would eventually be called The Residents on their recordings, their early live performances, and also appeared in The Residents' unfinished theatrical film Vileness Fats. One of his compositions, "Cantaten to der Dyin Prunen" appears on the group's 1971 demo tape Baby Sex. Rumors persist of a number of additional impromptu performances by Senada reading poetry and improvising on saxophone at open-mic nights throughout San Francisco during this time.
Senada disappeared in the early 1970s following his contributions to the shooting of Vileness Fats, only to resurface a couple of years later, returning from an expedition in the Arctic with tape recordings of genuine Arctic wind sounds, and a sealed bottle of pure Arctic air - these gifts would serve as inspiration for The Residents' ambitious Eskimo project, completed in 1979 after years of work.
Senada largely remained in obscurity until his death in 1993 at the age of 86. The Residents recorded Pollex Christi as a tribute to Senada and released it in 1997 on what would have been his 90th birthday. For The Residents' interpretation of the piece, the "holes" left in the piece by Senada were filled with a variety of more modern, recognizable compositions, such as the television theme from Star Trek. Pollex Christi was initially distributed in two limited editions of 400, but has since been reissued as part of the Best Left Unspoken series of instrumental works.
Theory of Obscurity Edit
Senada's Theory of Obscurity states that an artist can only produce the purest expression of their art when the expectations and influences of the outside world are not taken into consideration at all.
This theory influenced The Residents' decision to operate under a cloak of anonymity, and also influenced the creation of their album Not Available - recorded secretly as their second album in 1974, and only released in 1978 as a stopgap following a series of delays in the production of Eskimo.
In modern times, Senada and his theory are referred to almost exclusively in connection with The Residents, although other organizations have also claimed influence from this theory.
Theory of Phonetic Organization Edit
Senada's Theory of Phonetic Organization states that "the musician should put the sounds first, building the music up from [them] rather than developing the music, then working down to the sounds that make it up."