After a soulful trip to New Orleans, the Grammy-nominated cellist touches down in Dove Mountain — an arid haven situated just north of Tucson.
The second of four Ritz-Carlton destinations where Tina Guo is dispatched to take in the surroundings and compose an original score is the restorative Sonoran Desert. There she encounters Native American culture — receiving archeological pointers, witnessing a Circle of Life dance and playing an impromptu duet with a local flautist on a hillside — and discovers that the sunbaked landscape has its own wealth of flora, fauna and edible delights.
“I have to admit that I was overly excited for this trip. I’m obsessed with Native American culture, and I did a lot of research on the area. When my fiancé, Rambo, and I arrived at Dove Mountain, we knew immediately that this place was special. The landscape was so beautiful and unadulterated, and the sunset was epic.”
“Our first meal was at Cayton’s Burger Bistro, and it was a multicultural experience — there was a fantastic mariachi band and, later, a traditional Mexican dance performance. We also met two fascinating people: an expert on local culture and a Hohokam archeologist. They spoke to us about the history of the Native Americans in the area, and even showed us artifacts that were unique to their culture.”
“When I heard I’d be stargazing after dinner, I thought I’d be lying in the grass looking up at the night sky. This was real stargazing, and Ben Loker, the astronomer on property, was so knowledgeable. The sky was nearly pitch black to the naked eye, but magnified a million times through the telescope we saw the moon, Jupiter and other stars so clearly.”
“Nights in the desert were surprisingly quiet, but when we woke up early the next morning for a hike, it sounded like the rainforest! I could hear so many different birds, owls and insects chirping.”
“I hike regularly in L.A., so I was excited to get out there with Ranger Ron. He knew everything about the property and the animals, including this lizard, which looked like a mini-dinosaur. And I was in awe of those saguaro cacti — they’re huge!”
“When I looked out at the desert, I couldn’t imagine there was anything edible out there. But Ranger Ron explained that so many things are edible. This was one of the many fruits and flowers we tasted during our hike. It grows on top of the saguaro. The texture was like a kiwi and it tasted tropical.”
“The next day, Rambo and I set out to explore downtown Tucson. We stopped for coffee before visiting
Presidio San Agustín del Tucson Museum, a re-creation of a fortress built by Spanish settlers in 1775. Then we headed to Old Town Artisans, a building that had local art galleries and shops. I bought a Native American shaker that I plan to use in my song.”
“After lunch at Café Poca Cosa, we were lucky enough to watch these two gentlemen perform. The man with the hoops is performing the Circle of Life dance, which is meant to remind us of how we are connected to one another. The man behind him was chanting and pounding on a drum.”
“Every evening at The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, a Native American flautist plays from the hillside. The sound of this flute is ambient and hauntingly beautiful — I own two myself and play them regularly — and I was thrilled to be able to play with Larry Redhouse during my final evening on property. We were really high up the mountain, and it was very natural and free-flowing.”
“I felt so relaxed in Dove Mountain. I’m a bit OCD when it comes to work — I’m always checking emails and attached to the mothership — but while I was there, I didn’t check emails, I wasn’t on my phone. All of the music I played during this trip was impromptu too, and I want the song I write to capture that same raw and natural energy, and for all of the unforgettable experiences I’ve had here to work their way in.”