Here is what I am finding, so far.
The speakers are on and operational. When I run from a live CD distribution, sound apps play normally.
In BLAG (Gnome environment), I can click on the speaker icon. On the first click, it was down to minimum volume, but I can raise and lower the level. There are no error messages
If I start xmms and point it to a shoutcast stream, I get an initial popping sound or two in my speakers, but no other sound. The moving graphics in the xmms window act as if normal play is in progress. I have verified that the following packages are installed:
If I open certain menus in xmms, the menus appear to be in unreadable character sets. For example, if open the "Play file" menu, (keystroke l, per the xmms manpage) I get a window titled "Play files". Every other button and list in that window is labelled with rows of squares, of the sort that appear when one is trying to read characters in a language for which fonts are not installed.
Checking through options in the Gnome menus, there is a menu called "Sound Preferences". There are a number of testing options, but every "Test" button results in the following message:
audiotestsrc wave=sine freq=512 ! audioconvert ! audioresample !
gconfaudiosink profile=chat: Could not open audio device for
playback. Device is being used by another application.
These tests were all performed when no sound application that I knew of was running.
Any further suggestions?