A dedicated practitioner of yoga and overtone singing, Baird Hersey has had a celebrated career in music. He’s received commissions from Harvard University and the New Mexico Council for the Arts, performed at prestigious venues worldwide, and composed extensively for television. In the ’70s and ’80s, he led the highly acclaimed jazz-rock fusion band The Year of The Ear. In recent years, Hersey has led Prana, a group of singers that applies the overtone techniques of ancient Tibetans without the gravelly, low tones commonly associated with the method. Instead, each of the singers uses his or her regular voice to create two euphonious tones at once. The group’s latest album, The Eternal Embrace, is a musical meditation on the eight limbs of yoga according to Indian sage Patanjali. On April 16, Prana will encourage people to gather at 6pm and sing a continuous “om” as a meditation for peace. www.pranasound.com.
—Peter M. Laffin
Why do you choose to live in the Hudson Valley? In 1979, I came up to teach at Karl Burger’s Creative Music Studio. I loved the area: lots of great music, food, art, people, and magnificent countryside. I moved here in 1985, when my ex-wife was pregnant with our first son. There is an often-repeated blessing or curse (depending on how you feel about it) that supposedly comes from the Native American culture about a burial ground at the foot of Overlook Mountain. It says that once you are in the shadow of Overlook, you will always be destined to return there.
What very ordinary thing is hard for you to do? Spell. I am dyslexic (thank God for spell check!). When I was growing up, they didn’t know what it was and had no solution for it other than “remedial reading.” I think it forced me to become creative. I embraced my limitations and I tried, with varying degrees of success, to shape things to my strengths.
What was the last thing that made you laugh uncontrollably? This morning, a friend pointed out a grammatical error that I had made in an e-mail to them that completely changed the sincere and serious nature of what I had written into a very off-color pun. I howled. Laughter is a wonderful thing. I try and do it, and get others to join me, as often as I can.
What is your most pleasurable habit and where do you indulge in it? I have two: singing, which I do everywhere, and yoga, which I do at home. I have practiced yoga for 19 years. Over the first several years, I did many different styles. About 10 years ago, I found Ashtanga yoga. As well as physical postures, it is a practice of breath, focus, and moving energy, a practice that has changed my life in positive and wonderful ways, a practice that I begin anew every morning when I step on the mat. What are some things you would like to see change about this area? What are some things you would like to see stay the same? Anything that moves us toward a greater sense of community and helps us accept that, in spite of our differences, we are all connected.