The special meaning, and more particularly, the submerged associations that these words and images [in a literary work] have for the individual reader will largely determne what the work communicates to him. The reader brings to the work personality traits, memories of past events, present needs and preoccupations, a particular mood of the moment, and a particular physical condition. These and many other elements in a never-to-be-duplicated combination determine his response to the peculiar contribution of the text.It's just like that for music or any other art form we experience: We create the meaning it holds for us.
So over the years I've worked up a formula that helps students get into a work of art. That's what my tip sheet "How to Write a Reflective Response on Music (or literature of any other work of art)" is all about. It's designed to start by focusing on your experience of the music, but to move on from there into analyzing the music. You'll notice the "three questions" we keep asking, and you'll notice some elaboration on the questions by a lit professor from Georgia State (which is where I got the questions from). Below that, I've got a kind of outline. And I've linked to a sample essay I wrote - well, started - when I was still teaching English. You don't have to use my outline, but I hope you'll try it. It's helped students write some pretty good stuff over the years. Here's one example from The Sleepy Weasel, BenU-Springfield's campus magazine. And here's another example, also from The Weasel. Did I mention there's extra credit available if your paper is good enough for the magazine. A lot of our best stuff comes from papers written for class.