There was a graphical representation of Star Wars, and the curves the story takes.
Should a story be rhythm based like this from design phase (i.e. when making some pre-writing work)?
I always studied the hero's journey, where the main character goes trough a development process that works for most (if not all) plots. J. K. Rowling used that in all her Harry Potter's books, and I think they are awesome examples.
Basically, the character goes trough these steps (I'm sorry if I didn't use the correct English terms):
This events may happen more than on time in a story (in each step, for example) creating that rhythm that you are talking about. Please check Hero's journey
Of course, some modern stories may not follow those steps in quite a linear way, but you will find some of those steps in all plots. They create cadence and, most important, attach the story to something that we expect as readers.
I don't think that can be used to other kinds of arts, because it's quite specific to literature but, I won't say a painter can't create a series of works - or buildings, if he is an architect - using those steps. But if you think well, he would be telling a story not with words but with paints.
You can't have fast action scenes without slow, wind-down scenes, because if everything is fast, how can you tell it's fast, when you have no slow scenes to compare them to? The same way you can't have light without the dark, good without evil. If everything is the same pace, the same rhythm, it's neither slow nor fast, it becomes the norm. It's monotonous and boring. It has no impact. I don't think you'll find many good stories of novelette length and greater that don't have rhythm to them. Short stories might be an exception, simply because some of them can be made of just one single scene.
It's not just with scenes, same sentence length is also monotonous, varying the sentence length and structure makes the writing more dynamic. I'm going to blatantly steal an example from standback's answer to this question because I'm too lazy to find my own and his is perfect :)
I was as empty of life as a scarecrow's pockets. I went out to the kitchenette and drank two cups of black coffee. You can have a hangover from other things than alcohol. I had one from women. Women made me sick.
See how they go: medium, long, medium, short, short?
Now look at it written like this:
I was as empty of life as a scarecrow's pockets. I went out to the kitchenette. I drank two cups of black coffee. You can have a hangover from other things than alcohol. I had one from women, because women made me sick.
Much more monotonous, isn't it? This can be used on purpose when you want to show that monotony, for example if a character has a boring job or daily routine, but writing the whole piece like this would bore the reader to death. It's same with paragraph length, although it usually doesn't have as much impact as the sentence. In other words, you need rhythm in all aspects of writing.
The "sequencing" of story into slower and faster sections is an old, established technique; think of them as minor climaxes - threads reaching their "special moments". It creates flow, it builds up to every important part, and builds tension.
As every rule though, this one can be broken. I don't remember the title, but I still remember the story where the protagonist is changed into some miserable frog-like monstrosity less than halfway through, unable to fight, vulnerable and repulsive. He then proceeds to travel towards the goal of his journey and for a chapter or two receives little mercies in between his suffering, and then even these cease. Over a third of the book is just his harsh, unforgiving journey gradually losing every resource he had accumulated, no good news, no victories, and only more misery and suffering - no respite, no relief, no slowing of pace. It was many years ago and I forgot the title and the author but I still remember that gloom, that extremely depressive atmosphere and every hope of respite taken away before it could even be fleshed out, that made the book completely unique.
So, there; follow that rule if you want to make a good story. Break it mercilessly if you want a superior one.