Trying to get it work... and got worse in the meantime...
I was happy to find this thread
and followed the instructions in it (I have a intel8x0 compatible chip as well).
So, I compiled a new kernel without ALSA built in, and after step one, when I tried to change the permissions, I got an error that these devices do not exist. To recreate them, I ran the MAKEDEV.snd srcipt, and got further. All went without a hitch, and I had sound both as root and user. Hooray!!!
BUT... then when I rebooted, I could not again start Gnome (not even as root), because the newly created device /dev/dsp and others had disappeared. WHY???
Help greatly appreciated!