One of the main goals of AFTERLIFE was creating an audiovisual universe which felt coherent and self-contained, simultaneously referring to a myriad of different genres and formats for music production. We needed a music format which would be able to both set the mood or 'vibe' for each scene (referring to recognizable audio archetypes), allude to recognizable computer game music or computer game music formats which felt diegetic to the piece, and be able to carry narrative-driven text and vocals that felt natural to the game world and characters portrayed. Quoting game music composer Mick Gordon, we wanted to "consider the role of music as a translation of the world in which it exists rather than a simple accompaniment."

We ended up with a style which draws from classical opera as well as vaporwave, contemporary music theatre and hyperpop.

It would be slightly pointless to write about the music for AFTERLIFE without first discussing the music of James Ferraro. Ferraro rose to underground-electronic-music cult status in his early twenties with the release of 'Far Side Virtual' in 2011, which skillfully captured the Zeitgeist of neotenous, personified and seemingly benevolent mass-produced technologies, coupled with the darker undertone of the uncanny valley present in mass-produced technological innovations and a world characterized by global capitalism.

A handful of extremely well-crafted concept albums later,  like Human Story 3, Four Pieces For Mirai, Requiem for Recycled Earth, Neurogeist and Terminus, Ferraro's music is still pushing the boundaries of audio-storytelling and worldbuilding, mostly without the use of text or vocals in his music. It is this very consistent quality of using audible signs and combining easily recognizable references in complex compositions, that makes his music intriguing and immersive - listening to a James Ferraro album usually feels like entering a different world.

Analyzing the musical style, we find that the combination of clear-cut sound effects samples, the emphasized use of sample banks and virtual instruments, both synthesized and referring to archetypical instruments like harp or oboe, and a compositional style based in both modern electronic music, looping and stylistic choices from renaissance and baroque music, is fused into albums that all share a highly virtual feel and quality - James Ferraro's compositions often feel like they could be part of a not-yet-made computer game or virtual universe, and like they carry a full and complex narrative within.

The music of Afterlife borrows many of these stylistic choices, with the most obvious example being the underscores for the labyrinth scenes, which borrows many elements and style choices from Ferraro's 'Mirai'.

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The 5 labyrinth scenes in AFTERLIFE (one example is shown above) all share 2 basic melodic leitmotifs that are varied with different forms of instrumentation and production, giving them a musical development while retaining a recurring feel. The instrumentation and structure of the music is heavily inspired by James Ferraro's 'Four Pieces for Mirai' album (below, check out 19:50). Incidentally, the labyrinth scene above showcases some of the extended use of AI-generated visual art in AFTERLIFE, and the use of First-Person-Perspective to immerse the audience in surreal level design.

Another source of inspiration for the labyrinth scenes, was Arvo Pärth's 'Tintinnabuli' technique, famously used in 'Für Alina', which only allows scalar stepwise or arpeggiated tonic triad movements, and therefore creates an instantly recognizable character and simplicity in the melodic motifs.

The first Labyrinth Scene (above) makes use of Arvo Pärth's Tintinnabuli technique (below), blending a melodic style associated with neoclassical music with electronic production, alluding to a hybrid real-life/digital choir and electronic game music production elements.

There are countless other examples that inspired the music of AFTERLIFE, such as the virtual orchestral music for the Japanese Anime 'Demon Slayer' written by Yuki Kajiura, the music of Oneohtrix Point Never, Alexander Schubert, Hatsune Miku, Burzum,

Hirokazu Tanaka, Mick Gordon, Trond Reinholdtsen, Simon Steen-Andersen, Karpe and many others who I won't go further into for now. One example I want to highlight is the music of audiovisual artist Fornax Void, who skillfully has created music based on prevalent hardware digital audio workstations and synthesizers of the late nineties, and crafted his own universe which also makes use of the Game Engine Quake 1 as a platform for audiovisual storytelling.

A music video by Fornax Void built entirely in Quake 1 Engine.

Friction of styles: The opening scene of AFTERLIFE, where the two irl performers are introduced, is musically inspired by the accordion scene in Leos Carax' Holy Motors and the chiptune music of the original pokemon games. The visuals are inspired by baroque paintings like 'The Sacrifice of Noah' (ca 1650) by Antonio de Bellis, just as the loading screens of classic arcade games like Mortal Kombat +. The choir is created with EastWest Hollywood Choirs, which uses advanced combinations of phoneme samples to create a virtual text-to-sung choir.

Accordion Ensemble scene from Leos Carax' 'Holy Motors' (2012)

'Bellsprout Tower' from Pokémon Gold by Jun’ichi Masuda

'Mortal Kombat +' , start menu screen