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Early in The Sound of the Bandoneón, we are told that the music of this accordion-like instrument is like the tangos of which it is an intrinsic part, and perhaps even the souls of the Argentines themselves—a melancholy thing. A German invention built to play church songs, the bandoneón traveled along immigration routes to Argentina, where it became the “poor people’s organ,” a mainstay of brothels and dancehalls and the tango, both the emotive musical style and the visceral, gestural dance form. Of course, we don’t pick up the instrument’s biographical basics until more than halfway through the film. Instead, director Jiska Rickels rewardingly structures the early segments of The Sound of the Bandoneón like tone poems: He visits players, tuners, teachers, and pupils; allows for platitudes like “the bandoneón is an extension of myself”; and frequently pauses for extended tango performances and dreamy scenes of dusty, Northern Argentine villages. Slowly we learn that the squeezebox of the film’s title isn’t merely an oddity but also a fading tradition. New bandoneóns can’t match the rich harmonics of the ones produced until the 1940s, which means the instrument has become endangered: There are fewer than 20,000 playable bandoneóns left in Argentina, and every time one leaves the country in the arms of a tourist, the market tightens, and they become less affordable for the musicians who preserve them as living instruments, not collector’s items. “The only way to keep the bandoneón in our country,” one master instructs his students, “is to learn to play it.”