Yanni, who has performed across the globe and whose sound is arguably its own genre of music, says his method is simple: He embraces the unknown.
"Most people are afraid of the unknown. They are more comfortable doing the same thing every time and it's very predictable," he says. "(For me), it's exactly the opposite. I look at it as my friend. It's where all the music comes from."
The new age musician has a new studio album out – "Sensuous Chill," his 17th – and unlike the singles-driven market the music business focuses on, he says he intends for his albums to be listened to in full, to put people in a mood and "to be put on repeat."
He's also now on a North American tour and will debut a PBS special in March of a recent performance in Egypt at the Great Pyramids of Giza.
Yanni recently talked with The Associated Press about his unique sound and performing in Egypt. His answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Do you think of your music as its own genre?
Absolutely. I'm influenced by everyone. I've grown up in Greece which exposed me to an enormous variety of Middle Eastern music, Italian, Spanish music and everything from North Africa. I loved English rock and roll, American rock and roll, classical, I mean I'm very open to music. I wasn't sure it was gonna work when I was starting out. It was a big chance I took.
Were there people who said to you they didn't know if it would work?
Most of them… 35 years ago I started playing electronic music. 35 years ago if I may remind you, synthesizers were not considered real interested. People would go, "What is that?" They were shunned, but that's what I liked and I really enjoyed blending sound.
Do you think that by not having formal training, it's helped you to create the kind of music you do?
To put it lightly, my mind has not been polluted by how music is done. They will say, "No, don't put your hands like this on the piano, put them like this. No, we never play these notes together." A great teacher's job is to teach you how to be without them and unfortunately in our schools, not just in music, we don't see that.
Talk about your recent performance in Egypt.
Yanni: It was magical. It was shot at the highest quality television we have today… I created a new surround sound system to go with this particular performance… to create the atmosphere of being inside the audience for real, so you're watching the concert it's as if you're sitting 15th row center. They did some pyrotechnics for us that make the 4th of July look like a candlestick. They lit up the entire Giza valley… I did it because I knew I'm only going to be playing at the pyramids once.
How do you decide where you'll perform? You've played at so many exotic locations from the Taj Mahal to the Kremlin.
There are so many people saying, "You should play here, you should play there." My answer is always, "Look, when the time is right, it will become effortless and I will be there."