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N. Senada

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N. Senada (which may be a play on Ensenada, en se nada meaning "in himself nothing," no sé nada meaning "I don't know anything" or enseñada, a form of the past participle meaning "taught"; N. may stand for Nigel) was said to be a Bavarian composer and music theorist who formulated the "Theory of Obscurity" and the "Theory of Phonetic Organization". There is a debate as to whether or not he existed, or was simply an invention of The Residents. Supposedly born in 1907 and dying in 1993 at the age of 86, Senada was one of The Residents' earliest collaborators, having arrived in San Mateo, California, with Philip Lithman. It is frequently speculated that, if real, N. Senada may have been the famous avant-garde composer and instrument-designer Harry Partch, the influence of whose work may be heard in Residents' compositions such as "Six Things to a Cycle"; his death is also referenced in the song "Death in Barstow".

Another rumor speculates that N. Senada may have been Captain Beefheart because in the late 1960s Beefheart and his "Magic Band" lived in a residence on Ensenada Drive in Woodland Hills, California,[1] while recording Trout Mask Replica and Safe as Milk; Beefheart influence can also be heard in early Residents works. The Residents also sent an early demo tape to the Warner Brothers executive Hal Halverstadt who had signed Beefheart.


According to The Residents' lore, in 1937, N. 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".

Senada allegedly collaborated with The Residents on their pre-Santa Dog work, and then disappeared. He resurfaced in the mid-1970s, returning from an Arctic expedition and bearing a sealed bottle of pure Arctic air; this served as inspiration for the Eskimo project.

The Residents performed "Pollex Christi" as a tribute to Senada on what would have been his 90th birthday. The holes in the piece were filled with a variety of works, such as the television theme from Star Trek. The recording was distributed in two editions of 400 before being deleted.

"Theory of Obscurity"[edit]

Senada's "Theory of Obscurity" states that an artist can only produce pure art when the expectations and influences of the outside world are not taken into consideration. Senada and his theory are referred to almost exclusively in connection with avant-garde musical group The Residents, although other organizations have claimed to operate under it.[2]

"Theory of Phonetic Organization"[edit]

Senada's "Theory of Phonetic Organization" states, "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."


  1. Review of "China Pig" from Allmusic
  2. "The Most Ever Company".

External links[edit]

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