The cost of communication is a substantial factor affecting the scalability of many distributed applications. Every message sent can incur a cost in storage, computation, energy and bandwidth. Consequently, reducing the communication costs of distributed applications is highly desirable. The best way to reduce message costs is by communicating without sending any messages whatsoever. This paper initiates a rigorous investigation into the use of silence in synchronous settings, in which processes can fail. We formalize sufficient conditions for information transfer using silence, as well as necessary conditions for particular cases of interest. This allows us to identify message patterns that enable communication through silence. In particular, a pattern called a {\em silent choir} is identified, and shown to be central to information transfer via silence in failure-prone systems. The power of the new framework is demonstrated on the {\em atomic commitment} problem (AC). A complete characterization of the tradeoff between message complexity and round complexity in the synchronous model with crash failures is provided, in terms of lower bounds and matching protocols. In particular, a new message-optimal AC protocol is designed using silence, in which processes decide in~3 rounds in the common case. This significantly improves on the best previously known message-optimal AC protocol, in which decisions were performed in $\Theta(n)$ rounds. Silence