Congrats winning first place in the AIM. Well deserved I think. I must say I haven't heard all of the other entries, but this song is very good.
That document you liked to about the production of the song is indeed very long. You can hear you thought a lot about how to compose this song and that it means a lot to you.
I'm happy this artwork has rekindled your inspiration to write music. I think you make great things, and I want to hear more from you in the future. I'm sure your music writing days are far from over.
You can hear clearly the Enya influences. It reminds me of Clannad as well, which is an older group and one Enya herself was a few years member of at the beginning of her career. Those drums and nasal chorals are very nice. Nasal chorals always sound very mysterious to me.
Thoese those " “oooohs” that get progressively louder and then abruptly end" in combination with the drums that get stronger and the end hit are very good. You say you achieved the progressive loudness by volume automation. That's much better than reversing indeed, because reversing makes the sound spooky. I have a little tip for you. Rather than only volume automation, you can filter out some of the high frequencies at the softer parts, and then bring them back in for the louder parts. That way not only the volume increases, but also the colour of the sound gets stronger and that makes it more realistic. Alternatively, you can also cross fade between a sample with low velocity, and one with high velocity, or a combination of all of the above. I think it's really a matter of trial and error what works for what sample/synth.
You can really hear the different colours of the art piece in your song, because of all of the different segments that have different moods. Some are desperate, others carry and there's also the hopeful and happier parts. I like that diversity, and the parts flow smoothly into each other. The song never feels disjointed. It feels like a journey.
Those sound effects you use at the beginning are very nice. Those things that sound like droplets (although I also think they sound a little like birds to me). I think they're a little bit too defined for my taste. I'd prefer it if they're more washed out and part of a pad, so you hear the effects, but you don't hear them as individual sounds.
I like the choirs. I'm a sucker for synthetic choirs. I'm always searching for new ones. For each occasion a different one works. These blend very well with your song. Very atmospheric and they compliment your vocals. I like how you put a lot of reverb on your vocals to blend them with the rest of the song.
Very nice you often use vocals. You don't hear that enough on NG. It really ads depth to ad lyrics. However, I must add your singing is often the main thing that puts me off about your songs. I think your voice often isn't that strong, and your notes are too fluttery like you don't have enough control over your singing. In this song however it doesn't bother me that much, because your singing is somehow much stronger during the more hopeful parts and for the more doubtful parts it fits. I haven't heard all of your songs, but I think your singing might have improved.
Nothing else to comment really. I know there's a lot more you put into this song that I'm not able to pick up in just a few times listening. It's a (near) perfect song. I'm looking forward to hearing more from you.