The three layers of the old Antiphonale Romanum (i.e. the ancient core material, the primary additions, and the medieval additions) were more or less separated liturgically, and each liturgical section (the Psalter, de tempore, commune, old saints of the sanctorale, medieval Offices of saints) was provided with a set of antiphons rather homogeneous in style. Now the elements are different in style, age and origin and mixed throughout each section.
The new antiphons are texts singled out from the Bible by liturgical experts. And this observation leads to the most critical remark:
The Roman Office was the product of a service, celebrated in choir, shaped and polished by living practice. Its antiphons were chants, joint productions of theological reflection, liturgical tradition and musical inspiration. The typological character of ancient antiphons reflects a vivid and realistic singing practice.
In contrast, the Liturgia Horarum is a book to be read, constructed at an office desk. The “chants” are not chants in reality, they have been construed in the same way. The Liturgia Horarum is the first Office Book in the life of the Church without melodies. Consequently, the Liturgia Horarum is not a proper tool for the restoration of liturgical life, rather it furthers the decadence of recent centuries and fosters the process by which the Office, earlier sung in common, is turned into a private spiritual reading for priests.
Thirty years went by since its promulgation and the promised notated Roman Antiphonary has still not been produced. The music experts had to realize that the melodies cannot be adapted to the texts of the Liturgia Horarum, and only two possibilities exist: to compose new melodies for hundreds of new texts or to select antiphons from the old Antiphonary with the consequence that the “libretto” of the Office (Liturgia Horarum) and the sung variants will be totally different. This is something quite new and bizarre in the two-thousand-year old history of the liturgy. Now anyone may ask the question: which one is the Office of the Roman Church, the book to be read or the stuff we sing?
In the process of practical implementation most have simply neglected this crucial question and decided to rest satisfied with deplorable “solutions” such as: the people use the Liber Usualis for the sung Office, or local composers fabricate compositions to vernacular texts, or – in most cases – the Office is not sung at all.
Laszlo Dobszay, The Bugnini-Liturgy and the Reform of the Reform (2003)