Composer William Bolcom is not yet 40. He believes "the last 30 years of this century may well be devoted to rebuilding and rediscovering what we need of the past in order to move on from here."

On Saturday night his brand new Piano Quartet proved a real whizbang in the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society's Kennedy Center concert. THe quartet uses wisps of sound alternating with huge chords banged down at the left end of the piono keyboard, mingling with some strings plucked inside the piano. This is all accompanied by violin, viola, and cello sliding up and down their strings.

These sounds prompted one intellectual type in the audience to barge up the aisle early in the work, muttering loudly as he went. "They call THAT music!" in a tone that suggested that no one in his right mind possibly could.

By walking out, that critic missed the hit of the evening. A few minutes later, Bolcom's pianist, Richard Goode, launched remiiscently into something that sounded like every song you ever knew that went," After you're gone, what'll I do, after you're gone?" Whereupon the violin, viola, and cello joined in, sounding just like the bunch I used to play with on the mezzanine balcony of the Mayflower Hotel dining room. It was leg-pulling in grand style. Then came more bleeps and blips, done to perfection by Goode, James Buswell, Walter Trampler and Leslie Parnas.

The music works fitfully. When it is good, it is wonderful. When it is not, it makes you restless.