This is a Unix issue and not even a Linux issue though Linux tends to be worse than other Unices. OpenBSD tries to minimise these dependencies as more code equals more bugs but they do get constant headaches from upstream. It's better than having ancient libraries like on windows around though. There is one distro aiming to I think statically build everything but I don't think it will do a great deal at the moment.
One of the main reasons I have chosen to use arch is because you don't have to go around switching crap off after each upgrade or after install only to find they moved the init for the umpteenth time without documenting it and making it more difficult as if they are pissed off that you want to turn off the avahi-daemon crap etc..
I run xfce with gnome-alsamixer and alsa as neither xfces mixer nor pulse audio are compatible with the grsecurity kernel patch with all security protections enabled, but I didn't try gnome3 because it works on less hardware and I have to disable 3d support on some machines, due to the gaping security hole that graphics cards require and now web browsers have access to.
The arch alsa page is quite helpful and I imagine gnome will run just fine with alsa even if the gnome developers have decided as I have seen blogged that no-one has any reason not to use pulseaudio.